Montreal

Montreal activist wants fingerprinting for municipal court cases scrapped

Montreal activist Jaggi Singh wants police to stop documenting the fingerprints and mugshots of defendants appearing in municipal court.

Crown prosecutor argues evidence allows police, courts to consider a defendant's history

The judge will render a decision based on Jaggi Singh's motion in October. (Radio-Canada)

Montreal activist Jaggi Singh wants police to stop documenting the fingerprints and mugshots of defendants appearing in municipal court, calling the practice "completely inappropriate and illegal."

Singh said that Crown prosecutors should not be allowed to compel defendants to give their fingerprints and photos when they are charged with less-serious summary offences before municipal court.

He ​presented his motion in Montreal municipal court before Judge Randall Richmond on Friday.

Defendants are routinely compelled to provide their fingerprints and mugshots when facing summary charge proceedings in municipal court, which are considered less serious than indictable offenses.

Crown prosecutor Alexander Tandel asked the judge to reject Singh's motion, arguing that fingerprints allow police and the courts to better understand and consider a defendant's previous charges.

"Mr. Singh is [saying] that for the last countless number of decades, the way the criminal justice system has been working in Canada is faulty," Tandel said.

"He's asking for the justice system in Canada not to have any ability to control the accused that are appearing on their charges."

Jaggi Singh says Crown prosecutors should not be allowed to compel defendants to give their fingerprints and photos when they are charged with less-serious summary offences before municipal court. (Chris Schneider/The Associated Press)

Decision to be rendered in October

In his argument, Singh pointed to Canada's Identification of Criminals Act. The law allows for the fingerprinting and photographing of defendants charged with indictable offences, but does not explicitly extend the practice to defendants charged under a summary infraction.

Singh was arrested last May in connection with a protest at the Canada Border Services Agency offices in Montreal, and was charged with a hybrid offence, which can be pursued as either a summary or indictable offence by the Crown.

He said that since the Crown has opted to proceed with his charges as a summary offence in municipal court there is no requirement for him to provide his fingerprints.

According to Singh, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2009 — R. v. Dudley — supports his conclusions.

In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that "where the Crown elects to proceed by way of summary conviction, or "summarily", the hybrid (or "dual procedure") offence is treated in all respects as a summary conviction offence."

Tandel dismissed Singh's argument, and asked Judge Richmond to either order Singh to submit to fingerprinting, or issue an arrest order for failing to do so.

"There's no difference in obligations — a person who is charged under a hybrid infraction has to oblige himself under the same conditions as a full indictment offence."

Judge Richmond said that he will consider Singh's motion, and render a decision in municipal court Oct. 14.