Assault charges dropped against two Toronto cops
Charges against two Toronto police officers accused of assaulting a provincial prosecutor were dropped Friday on the recommendation of one of the most prominent lawyers in British Columbia.
Richard Peck told a provincial court judge in Toronto that “there is no reasonable prospect of conviction” against Const. Gail Shields and Const. Paul Clarke.
Peck was retained as a special prosecutor in the latest chapter of an incident in October 2007 that has strained relations between Toronto police and the Ontario Ministry of the AttorneyGeneral.
Crown attorney Roger Shallow was arrested by the two officers in the entertainment district in Toronto. The prosecutor, who works in a special guns and gangs unit, was charged with assault and causing a disturbance.
The province retained an outside lawyer, Jeanine LeRoy, to prosecute Shallow. She withdrew the charges nearly 15 months later.
The Toronto police union and Chief Bill Blair complained publicly when the charges were dropped by LeRoy, who is the former law partner of Ontario Attorney-General Chris Bentley.
In the meantime, Shallow convinced a justice of the peace to approve criminal charges against the two officers. Once a charge is approved by a justice of the peace though, it is up to the Crown to decide whether to proceed with the prosecution.
The Ministry of the Attorney General initially assigned the case to a prosecutor in North Bay. After the withdrawal of charges became public, it retained Peck, who has acted in such high-profile cases as the Air India trial and who is frequently called on by the B.C. government to be a special prosecutor.
After interviewing many witness, Peck concluded it was appropriate to ask that the charges be withdrawn against the officer.
The October 2007 incident that led to the arrest of Shallow was described as “emotionally charged” by Peck.
The scene in a downtown Toronto provincial courtroom was slightly unusual as Scott Fenton, a high-profile local defence lawyer, had to act as “agent” for Peck, since he is not licensed to practise in Ontario.
The two lawyers declined to make any further comment about the case. They smiled when asked if the two lawyers were receiving more than the $1,000 that Legal Aid Ontario would normally pay any counsel to defend an assault case.
The decision to drop the charges “vindicates” the officers, said their lawyer David Butt. The officers were “on duty,” which is why they were not in court on Friday, their lawyer explained.
While “there is no question who is paying the bill” to retain two high-profile lawyers as prosecutors, Butt said the involvement of Peck showed it was a “truly independent” decision.
Shallow, who is black, has also filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission as a result of his treatment the night he was arrested, which included a strip search.