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.

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