British Columbia

Tethered girl gets $60,000 in lawsuit against Victoria police

A jury at a civil trial awarded a teenager $60,000 in punitive damages Thursday for the way two Victoria police officers treated her while she was in their custody.

Jury rules police violated Willow Kinloch's legal rights

A jury at a civil trial awarded a teenager $60,000 in punitive damages Thursday for the way two Victoria police officers treated her while she was in their custody.

Willow Kinloch was 15 when her hands were cuffed behind her back and her legs tied together before she was tethered to the door of a padded cell for four hours on May 7, 2005.

The jury ruled on Thursday it was "false imprisonment" on the part of the Victoria Police Department and found the two police officers involved — Const. Brian Asmussen and Const. Ryan O'Neil — had used "excessive force" on Kinloch.

The jury said the police officers violated Kinloch's legal rights under Sections 7, 9 and 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, including the right not to be arbitrarily detained and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment.

"I knew at the time that it wasn't OK and people kept trying to tell me it wasn't a big deal and I knew that it was," Kinloch, now 18, said outside the Victoria courthouse.

Willow Kinloch, now 18, says her successful civil lawsuit against Victoria police was important because her treatment by police 'wasn't OK.' ((CBC))

Tammy Kinloch said she never doubted her daughter and supported her fight.

"I never saw the videotape until this year, and it was exactly like she told me it had happened that day," the mother said.

The mother and daughter wept and hugged in the courtroom after the jury returned the verdict.

The jury found Asmussen and O'Neil wrongfully imprisoned Kinloch, used excessive force in restraining her and violated her legal rights. The City of Victoria, as the employer of Victoria police, will have to pay her $60,000 in punitive damages.

But the jury ruled action by jail matron Merle Edmonds was "justified."

The jury said Edmonds, who pushed Kinloch to the wall in the cell before police came in, did nothing wrong and that she used reasonable force in restraining the girl after the teen kicked off her shoe and it hit Edmonds.

Victoria's interim police chief Bill Naughton says his department will take a number of steps in light of Thursday's verdict. ((CBC) )

Kinloch was arrested after she spent time drinking with friends in a Victoria park. After an unsuccessful attempt by police to take her home, she was taken to the drunk tank in the Victoria police station.

The police officers who tethered Kinloch testified they did so because they believed the teen had assaulted Edmonds.

Edmonds testified she checked on Kinloch every 15 minutes but decided not to ask for her to be released from the cells because the girl was sleeping.

Victoria police further review policies

Outside the Victoria courthouse, Kinloch's lawyer, Richard Neary, told reporters there should be some sort of monitoring of how police restrain people who are in their custody.

"This happened even though these people knew they were being videotaped, which is pretty stunning, from my perspective," Neary said.

"It may take more than just having the camera there. It may take some independent review and observation of the footage they captured."

Victoria's interim police chief, Bill Naughton, delivered a prepared statement shortly after the jury returned the verdict.

Naughton said an external review of the incident will be conducted by the Vancouver Police Department under the B.C. Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

"I have directed a review of our policies regarding the restraint of people in our custody. In light of this decision, we will further review those policies to see if there are other changes that need to be made," he said Thursday.

No decision has been made whether Victoria police will appeal the verdict, Naughton said, and the fate of the two officers involved in the incident remains undecided.