Police officers found not guilty of assaulting homeless man

Two Ottawa police constables were acquitted on charges they assaulted homeless man Hugh Styres in a 2011 incident in Sandy Hill.

Ottawa police officers' union blames SIU, calls trial waste of public money

Police officers not guilty

9 years ago
Duration 2:14
Ottawa police constables Tranh Tran and Colin Bowie found not guilty of beating homeless man.

Two Ottawa police officers have been found not guilty of assault causing bodily harm in a 2011 incident in Sandy Hill involving homeless man Hugh Styres.

A cropped version of a photo taken by Tasha Doucette as police dealt with Hugh Styres, a homeless man who was sleeping on an Osgoode Street sidewalk. (Tasha Doucette)

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit charged Const. Colin Bowie and Const. Thanh Tran with assault after an incident involving Styres, who was sleeping on a Sandy Hill sidewalk in August 2011. The two officers were accused of tripping and pushing Styres face-first into the pavement.​

The key witness in the criminal case, Tasha Doucette, took the stand in the spring but doctors deemed her medically unfit to continue her testimony. Doucette had been taken to hospital after she testified earlier in the trial.

The judge said Friday the testimony of Doucette and her daughter, River, was "flawed and compromised."

"I find [the evidence] unreliable in the extreme," said Judge Charles Vaillancourt. "I find the amount of force used by the officers reasonable."

Vaillancourt also said Friday Styres was being "abusive" towards the officers.

Court case was public money wasted: police union

The union representing Ottawa police officers was also quick to respond to the ruling on Friday, calling the trial a waste of taxpayers' dollars.

"We are happy with this decision, notwithstanding that these charges should not have been laid in the first place," said Matthew Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association.

"The provincial investigative units that oversee us should also expect the same level of oversight and scrutiny that our members accept of the profession of policing. A tremendous amount of public resources were unnecessarily spent as a result of this matter."

Outside the court, defence lawyer Michael Edelson took a softer stance, saying the verdict likely would not affect any future use-of-force cases investigated by the SIU.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau would not comment on the verdict. In a statement, he said the case has been difficult for the two officers and their families. He also said each officer will still face a discreditable conduct charge under the Police Services Act.

Friday's ruling comes more than a month after Styres dropped his civil case against Ottawa police, in which he had tried to sue the police force for $500,000.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?