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P.E.I. provincial court Judge Jeff Lantz said Summerside police officers were evasive during questioning. ((CBC))

A Summerside judge has cited "police misconduct" in dismissing charges against a man accused of home invasion.

P.E.I. provincial court Judge Jeff Lantz said in a decision Monday that the Summerside Police Department violated the accused's charter rights and were reckless during the investigation. 

He was also critical of the way the police officers handled themselves in court.

In April, two men broke into the home of 77-year-old man to rob him before getting into a struggle and fleeing the scene. Later, police pulled over Hammond Ford as a suspect. They charged him with impaired driving and impounded his car.

They searched the man's vehicle three times, but only once with a warrant.

In his decision, Lantz called that "police misconduct" that was "wilful and reckless" and said he had no choice but to dismiss the charges.

'The police conduct here represented a blatant disregard for charter rights...' —Judge Jeff Lantz

"The police conduct here represented a blatant disregard for charter rights and this was aggravated by some of the officers' misleading testimony or failing memories," he said.

Some of the officers were evasive on the stand, the judge said, and he was particularly critical of the lead investigator, Sgt. Sinclair Walker, who was responsible for overseeing the application to get a search warrant.

Lantz said Walker either didn't review it, or he left out important information on purpose.

Warrant incomplete

The warrant left out the fact that the car had already been searched twice, and that the description of the robbery suspects didn't match the men police found in the car.

Lantz observed that Walker was evasive with responses and that another officer's notes "mysteriously disappeared."

Police Chief Dave Poirier said he wants to review the judge's decision before deciding what should happen next.

"We will be getting a transcript of the trial and in the next few days," he said. "We'll be meeting with the Crown prosecutor to see where we go from here."

If a complaint is laid, that could trigger a formal investigation by the police department. If that doesn't satisfy the parties involved, the matter could go P.E.I.'s police commissioner for an independent review.

Defence lawyer Trish Cheverie said she recognized early on that something was wrong with the officers' stories, and that the answers changed over time.

"I think it was a combination of thinking you had the right guy and being prepared to perhaps not pay too much attention to the rules along the way," she said.