The Canadian Civil Liberties Association welcomes the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling in Peel (Police) v. Ontario (Special Investigations Unit) (formerly Metcalf v. Scott), which found that Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (“SIU”) had the authority to investigate the alleged crimes of a former Peel region police officer. CCLA intervened in this case as part of a coalition of public interest organizations to argue that the SIU, which conducts investigations of police incidents that have resulted in death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault, does have the jurisdiction to investigate incidents involving police officers who have since retired. In CCLA’s view, ensuring that the SIU has jurisdiction over such cases will enhance public confidence in the investigative process and the police; the judgment issued by the Court of Appeal will help maintain the integrity of Ontario’s system of police accountability.
The Special Investigations Unit was created in 1990 as a civilian agency empowered to conduct independent investigations into serious injuries and deaths that may have resulted from offences committed by police officers. On June 26, 2011, Peel Regional Police received a complaint from an individual who alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by a Peel region police officer in 1982. When the SIU commenced an investigation into the complainant’s allegations, Peel Regional Police challenged the SIU’s jurisdiction. At both the lower court and at the Court of Appeal, the police argued that the SIU had no authority to investigate because the alleged crime would have occurred before the creation of the SIU, and the accused officer had retired by the time of the complaint.
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s ruling, stating that the SIU can investigate officers who are no longer serving in the police force, as well as alleged crimes committed prior to 1990. The court noted that ending investigations if an officer resigned would give the police the unilateral power to halt investigations. The Court also reiterated the crucial public purpose of the SIU – to increase public confidence in the provision of police services and provide independent oversight of police conduct.
>> To read a copy of the judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal click here.
>> To read a copy of the CCLA’s factum before the Court of Appeal click here.
>> To read a copy of the judgment of the lower court (Superior Court of Justice) click here.
>> To read a copy of the CCLA’s factum before the lower court (Superior Court of Justice) click here.