Hamilton

Father of girl hit by a car says officer who arrested journalists was just doing his job

The father of 10-year-old Jasmin Hanif, who died on the scene of a motor accident in 2017, testified in favour of Hamilton Police Const. Jeff Todoruck

Prosecutor calls Hamilton Police Const. Jeff Todoruck's decision to call father as witness 'opportunistic'

Shakeel Hanif, the father of a young girl who died on the scene where Hamilton Police Const. Jeff Toroduck arrested two journalists, testified as a witness. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

The father of a young girl who died at the accident scene where Hamilton Police Const. Jeff Todoruck arrested a local journalist, says the officer was giving his daughter the space she needed. 

"I don't see what you have done wrong," Shakeel Hanif emotionally told the Police Act hearing on Thursday. "You tried to protect my child." 

On the hearing's third and final day, Todoruck called Hanif to testify as a witness.

Todoruck faces five charges related to the arrests of former Global News journalist Jeremy Cohn and freelance journalist David Ritchie at the fatal scene in 2017.

He faces one count of unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority, two counts of neglect of duty (one for Ritchie and one for Cohn) and two counts of discreditable conduct (one for Ritchie and one for Cohn). 

Cohn's lawyer, Brian Duxbury, told the hearing having a vulnerable person like Hanif testify was "opportunistic." 

Hanif said he was watching a televised newscast the other night and coverage of Todoruck's hearing "reopened everything." 

In response, Hanif offered to be a witness for Todoruck. 

Messages of thanks

When he testified, Hanif emotionally recalled the day his 10-year-old daughter Jasmin was struck and killed by a vehicle in Waterdown. 

On the evening of May 16, 2017, a 25-year-old driver was going southbound on Evans Road when Jasmin ran out in front of his vehicle. The driver was not charged. 

He said Todoruck had a "tough" job that day in "trying to clear the area where Jasmin was laying on the side of the road." 

When Todoruck arrested Cohn on the ground, Hanif testified that he saw the interaction. 

In his testimony, Cohn said the girl had already been taken from the scene by ambulance when he arrived.

After Jasmin died, Hanif said he sent messages to Todoruck and other Hamilton Police officers to thank them "for all your help protecting my daughter during that time and keeping people away, because she needed that space."

For the sake of him, his family and Jasmin, Hanif said that he's ready for all of this to be over. 

"Every time we see this, it brings it back, it replays the whole thing. It's never-ending for us and I wish to God it would end, I wish to God it would stop," Hanif said, adding that they have had no time to heal within the last three years. 

Hanif was not cross-examined by the prosecution. 

The hearing heard closing statements Thursday, which included a review of evidence and witness testimony. 

In his closing statements, Todoruck, who is representing himself, commented on Hanif's personal decision to testify for him. 

"(It) struck me in my heart and gave me the strength to carry on in this trial knowing what I did was (to) the best of my abilities and was the right thing to do," an emotional Todoruck said. 

He also argued that aside from Hanif, there were no independent witnesses to the case, that the video footage brought to the hearing was not absolute and that "huge inconsistencies" remain between witness testimony and video evidence. 

"My eyes should have been focused on the accident scene," Todoruck said. 

Campaign against media

The prosecutor reiterated that Todoruck demonstrated frustration toward members of the media, when all he had to do was have a conversation. 

"(It) seems he was on a campaign to shut the media out rather than calm the scene down and engage media to let them in," Duxbury said. 

At the start of the trial on Tuesday, video evidence from Cohn and freelance journalist Andrew Collins showed the moment that Cohn was brought to the ground and arrested with plastic zip ties. Cohn says he went to the scene to capture footage of the incident when he noticed his friend and fellow journalist Ritchie already arrested in the back of a police cruiser. 

Journalist arrest caught on tape

6 years ago
Duration 1:23
Video shows one of two cameramen who were arrested at the scene where a young girl died in Hamilton in 2017.

Closing comments on Thursday were also made by regional Global News director Mackay Taggart, who is a third party in the case but did not present any evidence. 

"At the end of this process, we hope we can bring some attention and reaffirm the important role that our journalists do telling the stories of (the) community, holding stakeholders to account and ensuring transparency in everything that happens in our society." 

Hearing officer Peter Lennox, said he hopes to come to a decision after reviewing all of the evidence presented. 

After the hearing, Taggart told CBC News that this case is not only important for Global News reporters, but for journalists across the country. 

"On the rare occasions, like this incident, where journalists are prevented from doing their jobs, we feel strongly that it's important that as an organization, as an industry, as a profession, we stand up and say that journalists play an incredibly important role in society." 

He continued to say that they've been trying to arrange a meeting with Hamilton's chief of police Eric Girt, but it has yet to happen.

"At the end of the day, findings and court rulings can say whatever they might say, but there needs to be working relationship and a mutual understanding that exists," Taggart said. "And that can only happen through dialogue and through mutual respect."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer La Grassa

Reporter/Editor

Jennifer La Grassa is a reporter/editor for CBC Windsor. Email: jennifer.lagrassa@cbc.ca

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