Police officers found not guilty of assaulting homeless man
Ottawa police officers' union blames SIU, calls trial waste of public money
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.
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.