Woman awarded $255K for wrongful arrest and imprisonment by Ottawa police

A woman who launched a lawsuit against the Ottawa Police Service for wrongful arrest and wrongful imprisonment has been awarded more than $255,000 by a judge.

Roxanne Carr was arrested and charged with obstructing police and damaging property in 2008

Roxanne Carr was unlawfully arrested and imprisoned and had her Charter rights violated when she was left in a holding cell for two hours, a judge has ruled. (CBC Archives)

A woman who sued the Ottawa Police Service for wrongful arrest and imprisonment is "tremendously relieved" to have been awarded $255,000 following a seven-year ordeal, her lawyer said Monday.

The damning judgment from Superior Court Justice Sylvia Corthorn, released last Friday, was vindication for Roxanne Carr after her 2008 arrest and subsequent treatment in the police cell block ignited public outrage.

Her lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said his client broke down in tears after learning the outcome of her civil lawsuit, one she launched in 2010.

"She was very thankful that it was done, that it was over and obviously the judge ruled in her favour," Greenspon told Radio-Canada on Monday. "Roxanne's been through a long, painful struggle."

Roxanne Carr cellblock video

6 years ago
Duration 5:01
A woman who launched a lawsuit against the Ottawa Police Service for wrongful arrest and imprisonment has been awarded more than $255,000 by a judge.

The judge outlined how multiple Ottawa police officers used excessive force and breached Carr's Charter rights during and after her arrest on Aug. 23, 2008.

Officers from two police cruisers showed up to her rental home that day and asked her to leave. When she refused and allegedly "lunged" at one of the officers, she was forcefully detained on the ground. In the process, she suffered two broken bones in her right wrist, according to the judge's ruling.

Corthorn ruled Const. Michael Adlard used excessive force in the takedown.

Roxanne Carr suffered two broken bones and scrapes from the Aug. 23, 2008 arrest.

Charges against Carr withdrawn

Carr was charged with assault, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and mischief after the incident. However, the Crown withdrew the charges in 2011 after video footage of her treatment in the police cellblock was made public. The charges were withdrawn because there was no reasonable prospect of conviction, according to the July 14 decision.

Corthorn ruled Carr had every right to be at the home as a rent payer, and that her arrest was unwarranted. 

Once she was placed in a police cruiser, she kicked out the two rear windows. 

Officers' actions 'high-handed': judge

Carr was then unlawfully searched when she was lying face down in the cellblock and one of the officers, Const. Richard Marcil, used excessive force, the judge ruled. 

Once in the holding cell, officers suspected Carr was attempting to hang herself with her clothing, which Carr denied. Four officers then removed her clothing.

She was given a suicide suit, but it didn't fit her. Carr threw the suit into the hallway as instructed, and was left naked in the cell for more than two hours before being given a larger suit.

I find that the indignity and humiliation experienced by Roxanne in that setting warrants compensation.- Justice Sylvia Corthorn

"I find that conduct of the officers who left Roxanne naked in the holding cell for over two hours was high-handed and a marked departure from the standards of ordinary behaviour," the judge wrote.

"I find that the indignity and humiliation experienced by Roxanne in that setting warrants compensation. My intention in awarding damages under this heading is that of deterrence of future Charter breaches of this kind."

'Let's put an end to this'

​Several media outlets, including CBC News, fought successfully in court to have the cellblock footage publicly released. 

Greenspon said Carr, who has since moved from Ottawa, has been through a "long, painful struggle."

"She's shown great courage to follow it all the way through and I'm hopeful that the police service will look at this and say, 'Let's put an end to this. It's enough,'" he said.

Lawrence Greenspon discusses client's reaction

6 years ago
Duration 0:19
Lawrence Greenspon discusses his client's reaction to news of the settlement.

Ottawa police and the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board both declined to comment on the court ruling.

However, in an email to CBC News, board chairman Eli El-Chantiry noted that, "with respect to training on proper detention and use of force, I would like to point out that this incident occurred in 2008 and in 2011, the Ottawa Police Service completed a review of its cellblock operations and initiated a number of changes to enhance cellblock operations including additional training, technical enhancements, and policy reviews/changes."

"I do agree that it is important to learn from the past and I also think it is important to always look for ways to improve service and safety for the community," El-Chantiry wrote.