The month of June brought some interesting topics to the fore, particularly from the highest court in the land. Read on:
At the beginning of the month, the task force on the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre released its recommendations to improve the conditions at the jail. The recommendations range from reforming bail to improving health care (see an overview here: ) . While they are seen as a positive start, the outcomes have been criticized by groups such as the John Howard Society, who argue that the report does not go far enough to address issues with bail and the overreliance on sureties.
Newly appointed Minister of Community Safety, David Orazietti will also be reviewing the recommendations of the Ontario Ombudsman in a report on police use of force, following the death of Sammy Yatim and others by police. The report urges more rigorous training for police to de-escalate violent situations, and criticizes Yasir Naqvi's handling of the issue. Read the full report, or an overview from the Ottawa Citizen's Dave Reevely.
The Toronto Star ran a story about a law student who was denied a ride along based on police records that had documented him while in the company of people with criminal records. Mr. Singh is bringing a complaint to the human rights tribunal, claiming that he has been unfairly targeted on the basis of his skin colour. The story shows the dangers of police carding and the far-reaching implications of collecting data on the basis of race. …
In an unusual case, three Toronto police officers are suing the Attorney General on the basis that the Crown attorney did not challenge accusations that they had beaten a robbery suspect. The officers argue that had the Crown (it names three individuals specifically) properly conducted the trial that the officers would not have suffered damage to their livelihoods and reputations.
The Supreme Court released a decision about bestiality, tracing the history of the offence to find that the offence requires penetration with an animal. The full decision is here, you can read this overview of the case by Camille Labchuk, who intervened in the case on behalf of Animal Justice. Her article provides a quick summary of the case and argues that it is in fact good news for animals.
The Court also released a decision in R v. Saeed, a case which asked whether police need a warrant in order to swab a man’s penis for a complainant’s DNA. The Court likened penile swabs to a strip search, finding that as long as it is carried out in a reasonable manner, search can be justified. The case allows for the collection of samples without a warrant, a troubling expansion of police powers, as articulated by defence lawyer Howard Krongold, who represented the Criminal Lawyers Association at the hearing.
The British Columbia Supreme Court awarded damages of 8 million dollars to Ivan Henry following his wrongful conviction and 27 year incarceration. The Court found that the Crown had withheld disclosure which affected Henry’s right to a fair trial. This article provides a helpful summary of the 130 page decision . The most concise commentary on this decision comes from Emma Cunliffe, a professor at the Allard School of Law at UBC, who wrote a series of tweets about the questions that the case raises.