…….against 4 Toronto cops”
So read the Toronto Star headline over Wendy Gillis’ November 10, 2017 column.
“A high-profile case involving four Toronto police officers accused of planting heroin on a car dashboard then falsifying court testimony has collapsed before going to trial, after the Crown withdrew the more than two dozen perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges.”
Last week we posted Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan’s September 2015 ruling that found four Toronto police officers had planted drugs in Nguyen Son Tran’s car back in January of 2014. Morgan threw out the seized drugs as evidence and stayed the charges against Tran.
After that decision and the publicity around it, the police’s professional standards unit investigated. That resulted in a total of 25 charges against the four officers, including 10 directed at 10-year veteran Benjamin Elliot. A downcast Toronto Chief Mark Saunders told a January, 2016 news conference that all four officers were suspended…with pay…and faced professional misconduct charges under the Police Services Act.
So, what happened?
In March of this year, that same Toronto Police professional standards unit advised the Crown Attorney prosecuting the case that privileged information had been inadvertently disclosed to the officers’ attorneys. A back-and-forth between the police and the Crown over how this might impact the viability of the court action meant the Crown had a duty to review and re-examine its “voluminous” case, and conduct a “painstaking and detailed reappraisal.” How this privileged information was characterized wasn’t mentioned.
In any case, the delay would postpone the trial until at least the fall of next year, exceeding the timeline limits established by the Supreme Court’s decision in R v. Jordan. The Crown felt it had no choice but to withdraw the charges, and that despite remedies available to sidestep the Supreme Court limits. As one Toronto criminal lawyer put it, “that the Crown attorney on such an important case would simply give up in the face of these issues is shocking and disheartening.”
At the same time, lawyers for the accused considered this a victory, and more, that the four officers were vindicated
What really happened though is that the Toronto Police Service sabotaged a criminal case against four of its own, based on an investigation it had conducted. One would think the forces professional standards unit would be professional standards experts, wouldn’t one? As Nguyen Son Tran’s lawyer said, the police “screwed up their own disclosure obligations? It just stinks.”
One other question appears never to have surfaced at any point, or with any observer. What did Tran do to warrant so much interest from Toronto police back in January of 2014?
PONDER THIS FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS. WE’RE TAKING A CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR’S BREAK……..BACK AGAIN ON JANUARY 7, 2018!