Judge condemns OPP officer’s “indifference to the truth”
Multiple problems found with officer’s written report during DUI case
A recent DUI case has highlighted the continuing problem of police officers giving testimony that may be false or inaccurate despite recent efforts to stamp out the problem. According to the Toronto Star, an Ontario Court judge condemned one OPP officer’s apparent “indifference to the truth” for multiple statements he made that later proved to be untrue. According to experts, the case is an example that the government’s recent attempts to combat false police testimony are falling short.
“Just not true”
The case involved the drunk driving arrest of a Toronto man along the 401. What may have been a routine impaired driving case later turned into an example of police misconduct due to the OPP officer’s written report on the arrest. His report claimed that the suspect had been cutting off motorists on the 401. In addition, after arresting the individual, the officer claimed he checked on him in his cell every 15 minutes, as is required by law.
In court, however, the officer admitted that his claim the suspect was cutting off motorists was “just not true” and video evidence proved that no police officer had checked on the suspect in his cell for 40 minutes. The justice described the officer’s testimony as “preposterous” and at one point accused him of committing “fraud”. The suspect was found not guilty.
The problem of false or misleading police testimony is hardly new. A previous investigation by the Toronto Star unearthed hundreds of examples of police officers lying, which led to the provincial government introducing new policies to combat the problem and hold police accountable. The keystone of the policy was requiring Crown prosecutors to report findings about problematic police witnesses to their superiors, which in turn could lead to a police investigation.
However, since that policy was introduced, it has been impossible to find one instance of a Crown prosecutor reporting problems with a police witness to his superiors, according to the Hamilton Spectator. While it is possible that some investigations may have occurred and are only being kept from the public for privacy reasons, critics say even in such cases the need for public accountability should eventually outstrip individual privacy concerns.
Police testimony is taken extremely seriously during criminal cases, and when such testimony can no longer be relied upon then questions inevitably arise about the criminal justice system as a whole. For people who are defending themselves against a specific criminal charge, however, such misconduct has the potential to upend their lives.
Anybody who has been charged with an offence should get in touch with a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. A qualified lawyer will look at all angles of a client’s case, including the potential for police error or misconduct, when determining what may be the best course forward.