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News Release

SIU Acting Director: No Charges Warranted in Hotel Parking Lot Arrest

Case Number: 16-OCI-033

Mississauga, ON (3 June, 2016) ---
The Acting Director of the Special Investigations Unit has concluded that no charges are warranted in the arrest of a 28-year-old man in the parking lot of a hotel in Woodstock earlier this year.  

Three investigators were assigned to this incident.

The complainant, one civilian witness, and four witness officers were interviewed.  The three subject officers did not participate in SIU interviews nor did they provide copies of their duty notes, as is their legal right.

The investigation found the following:
  • Early in the morning on February 6, 2016, a 28-year-old man drove a stolen pickup truck into the parking lot of the Quality Inn on Bruin Drive in Woodstock.
  • An officer – already in the parking lot on another matter – queried the truck’s licence plate and found it registered to a woman. 
  • The officer approached the man and spoke briefly to him before the man ran away from the officer.
  • Other officers arrived in the lot and the man was taken to the ground and arrested.
  • Once at the police station, the man was strip-searched.
  • He was later transported to Woodstock General Hospital and diagnosed with a fracture to his right hand.
    

SIU Acting Director Joseph Martino said, “The officers, in my view, were acting in the lawful discharge of their duty when they apprehended the man.  Though the vehicle had not yet been reported stolen, the first subject officer had cause to be suspicious.  The officer checked the licence plate and learned that the registered owner was a woman in Brantford.  The fact that the man refused to answer questions and then ran from the officer as the officer approached only added to the officer’s suspicions and conferred the requisite grounds to detain the man for further investigation.  The officer chased the man and eventually caught up with him.  With another officer’s help, who was responding to the initial officer’s radio call for assistance, the man was pepper sprayed and forced to the ground.  It is likely that his injury occurred during the grounding as there is no indication from the man or anyone else that he was struck at any time.  The third subject officer arrived shortly thereafter and joined with the others in cuffing the man’s hands behind his back, whereupon he was taken to the station without further incident.  

“Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers may use force in the execution of their lawful duties but only to the extent reasonably necessary in the circumstances.  Knowing he was in the possession of a stolen vehicle and illicit drugs, the man ran from the officers and then refused to show them his hands and get down to the ground when they caught up with him.  On this record, I am satisfied that the use of pepper spray and physical force (without any blows) to ground the man fell within the range of what was reasonably necessary to overcome his recalcitrance and effect his arrest, notwithstanding the injury that resulted in the process.

“While at the station, the man objected to a strip search.  In particular, he was offended at his buttocks being touched and asserted that he had been sexually assaulted.  The Supreme Court of Canada has observed that strip searches are inherently humiliating and degrading and cannot be justified simply as an incident to a lawful arrest in the absence of reasonable and probable grounds that the strip search was itself necessary in the circumstances.  Moreover, according to the Court, a lawful strip search must be conducted in a reasonable manner having in mind the dignity of the person being searched. The officers clearly had grounds, in my view, to strip search the man.  They had already recovered a pack of cigarettes from the area of his buttocks and they had seen him with his arms behind his back in that same area despite their direction that he show his hands.  I am also satisfied on my review of the evidence relating to the strip search that the officers conducted themselves reasonably throughout; though force was used by the officers against the man, including a punch struck to the man’s left side, this appears to have been precipitated by and commensurate with the man’s physical resistance to the search that was unfolding.           

“A sexual assault is comprised of non-consensual touching of a sexual nature that violates the integrity of the person touched.  On the record before me and, in particular, my view that the strip search was lawful, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the strip search in question was ‘sexual’ in nature and that the man was, therefore, sexually assaulted.” 

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence  in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
  • report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General. 

Lisez ce communiqué en français.

Jason Gennaro, jason.gennaro@ontario.ca
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-641-1897 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 1897