Cellblock strip search policeman not guilty of sex assault

An Ottawa police officer has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in the Elgin Street cellblock after her arrest in 2008.

Sgt. Steven Desjourdy was applauded by other officers as he left courtroom

Ottawa police Sgt. Steven Desjourdy found not guilty in 2008 cell block strip search. 2:56

An Ottawa police officer has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in the Elgin Street cell block after her arrest in 2008.

Ontario Justice Tim Lipson said the Sept. 6, 2008, arrest of the woman on a charge of public intoxication was not warranted because she was not a threat to herself or others.

Lipson also said the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Desjourdy's conduct during a strip search in the cellblock was unreasonable and committed in a sexual nature.

Lipson said he was satisfied Desjourdy conducted the strip search with the valid purpose of checking the woman for possible weapons.

The woman, who can't be identified because of a publication ban, was in court to hear the verdict and lowered her head briefly as it was read out.

She declined to be interviewed afterward.

Officers applauded verdict

As Desjourdy walked out of the courtroom, about 50 police officers who had gathered outside applauded.

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof welcomed the decision and said the union was confident a review of the evidence would result in a dismissal of the charges.

"Sergeant Steve Desjourdy remains a valued member of the OPA. I, along with my membership, have been proud to support him through the previous 25 months. We will continue to do so," said Skof.

Desjourdy was charged after the province's Special Investigations Unit investigated an incident in which the officer used scissors to cut off the bra and shirt of a woman arrested for public intoxication.

The strip search was captured on surveillance video, which was released to the public by a judge.

The video ignited a debate about whether the strip search was proper police procedure or sexual assault.

Discreditable conduct charge remains

Desjourdy still faces a charge of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act. A date for that hearing has not yet been set.

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau said in a statement his force "respects the court's decision."

"The Ottawa Police Service will not be making further comment on today's decision nor the review and upcoming process regarding the PSA charge of discreditable conduct."

The woman who was strip-searched has also launched a $1.2-million lawsuit against Ottawa police.