Cellblock strip search was excessive, Crown alleges
Special constable testifies he had never seen a bra and shirt being cut off a female prisoner before
Posted: Sep 24, 2012 5:02 PM ET
Last Updated: Sep 25, 2012 9:57 AM ET
During the first trial day of an Ottawa police sergeant accused of sexual assault in a controversial 2008 cellblock strip search, a special constable who was there testified he had never before seen a female prisoner's bra and shirt being cut off.
Sgt. Steven Desjourdy has pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual assault after he allegedly cut open the bra and shirt of an Ottawa woman while two other male officers held her down on Sept. 6, 2008.
A publication ban prevents the woman from being identified. She was in court Monday, but isn't expected to testify.
Special constable Michael Bednarek told the court he was on duty in the cellblock when arresting officers brought the woman in for public intoxication.
He said she was loud, belligerent and swearing at the officers.
Bednarek told the court that after the woman mule kicked a female officer, he and two other officers took her down onto the ground for her own protection and for the protection of the officers.
He said he searched the woman for jewelry and thought it was appropriate that a female officer checked her waistband for a belt or drawstring.
Bednarek then testified that Desjourdy got a pair of scissors and cut off the woman's bra and shirt. Bednarek said there was no discussion about it among the officers.
Crown prosecutor Chris Webb asked why another female officer wasn't brought in to do the strip search in a private room.
Bednarek answered that he didn't think of it but, today, he'd do that in a "heartbeat."
Level of force inappropriate, Crown argues
Bednarek also said he coudn't recall ever seeing a female prisoner's bra and shirt cut off before.
Desjourdy used more force than necessary during the strip search, assistant Crown attorney Chris Webb argued in court.
Webb said she was left in her cell without clothes for hours after the search.
Webb said removing the clothing was excessive and "violated her sexual integrity and was a sexually humiliating experience."
A crime of power, not of passion: Crown
Sexual assault is not a crime of passion, said Webb.
"It's a crime of power, dominance, aggression and violence," he said.
Webb noted that police will likely say they removed her bra and shirt as a precautionary measure to prevent a person in cellblock from hanging themselves.
But Webb said the force used was more than what is outlined in police policies.
Defence lawyer Michael Edelson did not make an opening statement.
Police union says officer shouldn't have been charged
Outside of court, Ottawa Police Association President Matthew Skof said Desjourdy should never have been charged.
"When an officer's doing their job — this is not a back-alley lascivious act — we do it clinically, we do it professionally and when we are doing that we shouldn't be questioned to a criminal intent," said Skof.
"There are several layers of oversight for police officers, including the Police Services Act and civil litigation. This is not the appropriate venue,” he said.
Desjourdy was charged in March 2011 by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which looks into incidents involving police where a member of the public dies, is seriously injured or alleges sexual assault.
The trial continues Tuesday. It is expected to last two weeks.
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