A special constable involved in the controversial 2008 strip search of an Ottawa woman says she was not aware a group of officers were strip-searching a female prisoner, she testified in the sexual assault trial of Sgt. Steven Desjourdy.

Desjourdy is on trial for one charge of sexual assault in the strip search of a woman, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban.

Melanie Morris, the special constable who was seen on cellblock surveillance video grabbing the woman's hair and kneeing her twice, said the woman was "belligerent" and resisting.


The strip search of an Ottawa woman in 2008 led to charges of sexual assault against police officer Steve Desjourdy. (CBC)

When she checked the woman's waistband for weapons, Morris testified the woman kicked her.

"I didn't know at the time it was a strip search and it wasn't intended to be a strip search," Morris told the Crown, who had asked if looking inside someone's pants is technically part of a strip search.

Strip searches only conducted by female officer, constables testify

Morris also testified Monday she told the woman to keep her head forward while she was being searched, which would ensure the prisoner did not spit on Morris or bite her.

A strip search is done in a private room with a female officer conducting the search on a female prisoner, both Morris and another special constable, Michael Bednarek, have testified.

Morris added, in that type of strip search, a prisoner is asked to remove their clothing and the officer does not have any physical contact with the prisoner. 

The cellblock video from 2008 shows Desjourdy cutting the woman's bra, Bednarek testified last week. But the special constable, who is also a witness, then said it was possible the bra was unclipped when questioned by defence lawyer Michael Edelson.

The trial is expected to last another week.