Peel police will ‘look into’ misconduct claims

A judge has found that Peel police officers conducted an unlawful strip search and then tried to cover it up, calling their testimony “evasive” and…”Mr. McPhail’s Lawyer, Ian Collins of the Burrows Firm had this to say…”

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A judge has found that Peel police officers conducted an unlawful strip search and then tried to cover it up, calling their testimony “evasive” and “troubling.”

The officers’ conduct prompted Justice June Maresca to throw out breathalyzer evidence in an impaired driving case earlier this month, citing a breach of Charter rights. The defendant, David McPhail, was acquitted as a result.

McPhail, 25, was arrested and charged with driving while impaired. He was brought to a Mississauga police station just before 5 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2008 and was made to strip completely naked. Nothing was found in the search.

The Ontario Court judge wrote that three officers knew the strip search took place. Two were in the room when it happened but took no notes. One initially testified it never happened.

“What can only be viewed as the attempted coverup of the strip search makes this conduct especially egregious,” Maresca wrote, adding the search was intended to “put (McPhail) in his place.”

A spokesman for the Peel police service said it will “look into” the judge’s findings.

“They’re allegations and we need to look into it,” said spokesman Sgt. Zahir Shah, adding that he is “not familiar with the nuances of the case.”

Strip searches are “inherently humiliating and degrading,” according to the Supreme Court, which has set out strict guidelines around them. Officers must have reasonable grounds to suspect the prisoner is concealing weapons or evidence; must also seek authorization from a supervisor; and keep proper records of the search.

In McPhail’s case, no records were kept and no approval was sought from a staff sergeant. In testimony that Maresca called “troubling,” one officer said McPhail was strip searched because a cellphone was found hidden in his shoe.

“(The officer) gave what can only be described as fanciful evidence of a cellphone he read about in a police bulletin that was capable of firing bullets,” she wrote.

Though one officer initially testified that McPhail was “compliant,” he later recanted and joined fellow officers in describing the young man as “cocky,” “arrogant” and “belligerent.”

“This evidence leaves the strong impression that the strip search was conducted in order to humiliate or intimidate,” McPhail, Maresca wrote.

McPhail’s lawyer, Ian Collins, said there should be a full, independent investigation into the officers’ actions. The crown attorney should also have reported what was revealed during the trial to the Peel police service, Collins said.

McPhail’s case comes to light one week after the Toronto Star reported that a paralegal is suing four Toronto police officers, the police services board and the attorney general of Canada, alleging he was strip searched and left naked in a cell for 48 minutes in the days leading up to the G20.

When are strip searches allowed?

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