Ont. judge slams Ottawa police strip search

A woman was unlawfully arrested and suffered an "indignity" when she was forcibly strip-searched while in Ottawa police custody, an Ontario judge has ruled.

A woman was unlawfully arrested and suffered an "indignity" when she was forcibly strip-searched while in Ottawa police custody, an Ontario judge has ruled.

Stacy Bonds, 27, was arrested on Rideau Street in September 2008 and charged with public intoxication.

Justice Richard Lajoie of the Ontario court of justice stayed the charge against Bonds, ruling it would be a "travesty to permit these proceedings to go on" because of the "appalling behaviours" of police officers seen in a videotape presented in court.

In a transcript of his Oct. 27 oral decision released Wednesday, Lajoie ruled that while the accused had been drinking when she was arrested, there was "no evidence that Ms Bonds was a threat to herself or anyone else" and so there was no grounds to detain her.

Bonds's detention and subsequent strip-search was a "clear violation" of her rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Lajoie ruled.

Lajoie said the video shows Bonds — who is "not being one hundred per cent compliant" — receive "two extremely violent knee hits in the back."

Bonds is then forced to the ground, where a police officer cuts off her shirt and bra with scissors "with the assistance of at least three male officers," Lajoie said.

There was "no reasonable explanation" for the strip-search, Lajoie said. "It is more than evident that the search at 474 Elgin [Street] was an extremely serious breach of Ms. Bonds' rights."

Matthew Webber, Bonds's lawyer, thanked Lajoie.

"At the station we have the police officers not only assaulting my client, but we have the police engaging in a strip search which is in clear contravention of the Supreme Court of Canada's directions as to when you can engage in a strip search," Webber told CBC News.

"It's a lack of knowledge. It's a lack of training."

Police launch internal investigation

Ottawa police Chief Vern White, reached in Kingston, Ont. by telephone, promised a swift internal investigation into the treatment Bonds received. Like other Ontario police chiefs, White said, he would like more power to discipline officers.

"I do not feel our discipline process today carries the full weight of accountability the public expects," White said. "Most of the chiefs have identified to the province that we need to have some changes in the Police Services Act."

White said the current act makes it difficult to suspend or dismiss police officers, and even those dismissed may remain on the payroll if they choose to appeal.

Webber suggested the officers involved should be fired.

"Perhaps they should not have those jobs; perhaps they cannot be trusted to have those jobs," he said.

Webber said the incident has shaken Bonds's confidence in the police and she is considering launching a lawsuit against the Ottawa Police Service.