VPD ordered to pay $9K to woman restrained in 2008 arrest

A woman arrested and restrained after an anxiety attack led to her being restrained on a jail cell floor was awarded $9,000 in damages from the VPD. However, she and her lawyer say they're disappointed that a restraint device used on her will continue to be used by the VPD.

VPD highlights that ruling finds use of hobble justified

Bobbi O'shea (left) and her lawyer Doug King were hoping to have use of the "Hobble" banned in a lawsuit over O'Shea's arrest (CBC)

A First Nations woman has been awarded $9,000 in damages in a lawsuit against the Vancouver Police Department after being restrained during an arrest almost eight years ago.

In March of 2008, Bobbi O'Shea suffered an anxiety attack while under the influence of crack cocaine. she called 911, believing she would be taken to hospital.

However, she was subsequently jailed and placed in a restraining device called a "Hobble," which restrains the prisoner by their ankles and keeps them on the floor, anchored to their cell door.

O'Shea sued the VPD, and in a decision released today, provincial court Judge Laura Bakan found the city liable for a breach in its standard of care.

However, O'Shea says the ruling is far from a victory. She and her lawyer were hoping the lawsuit would lead the VPD to abandon the device as Victoria's police have done.

She likened her treatment to "torture."

"I was really harmed with being in the device for an hour," she told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn. "They knew that it was really harming me. I was screaming for the whole time I was in the restraining device. Anyone who's heard anybody scream like that, knows they're being seriously harmed."

She also says she wants to see the city develop a "sobering centre" as an alternative to jail for people under the influence of drugs.

Call to review restraint policies

Her lawyer, Doug King, agrees that restraint policies need to be changed. He says he took on the case because these incidents have come up before, and doesn't dispute O'Shea calling the device a form of torture.

"While Judge Bakan did not feel comfortable saying the police should not be allowed to use this device at all, I think this case really shows how it should not be used in circumstances like this, against someone who's not a violent prisoner," he said.

"Bobbi's case was one of a few at that time that came to us that suggested it was being used in far too many circumstances much like the Taser."

In an emailed statement, the Vancouver Police Department highlighted that Judge Bakan found the use of the Hobble to be justified.

"We continue to use the device when needed and will review and examine the decision to determine if any changes to practices, policies and procedures are needed to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep those in our care safe."

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Woman describes being restrained by VPD as 'torture;' police ordered to pay $9k

With files from Liam Britten