High-ranking Toronto officer appealing G20 misconduct conviction

Supt. Mark Fenton believes he was unfairly convicted after overseeing the controversial mass arrests that happened during the violence and vandalism of the 2010 summit.

Supt. Mark Fenton was "tasked by his superiors to take back the city," his lawyer says

Supt. Mark Fenton, the high-ranking Toronto police officer reprimanded for his conduct during the 2010 G20 summit, is appealing his 2015 conviction. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

Seven years after chaos and violence surrounded the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto, the ongoing saga over the actions of a high-ranking police officer continued this week.

The appeal hearing for Supt. Mark Fenton started on Tuesday in front of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission — the same independent oversight agency that convicted him of unnecessary and unlawful use of authority in the arrest or detention of roughly 1,100 people on June 26 and 27 in 2010.

Fenton was sentenced in 2016 to a reprimand and the loss of 30 paid vacation days in the wake of his 2015 conviction. He was Toronto's only high-ranking police officer sanctioned following the international forum.

Fenton didn't appear for the hearing on Tuesday morning, but his lawyer Michael Lacy portrayed him as a police officer who had real concern about a breach of the peace during the G20 summit and one who walked into a "perfect storm of circumstances."

Supt. Mark Fenton's laywers, Michael Lacy (left) and Bryan Badali (right) outside the appeal hearing on Tuesday. (John Lesavage/CBC News)

The superintendent believes he was unfairly convicted and, through the appeal, he hopes to be found not guilty on all counts since his conduct was backed by his superiors in the police service, his lawyer said.

Meanwhile, public complainants who were arrested and detained during the summit are seeking Fenton's full dismissal from the force through a cross-appeal — another layer in the ongoing, years-long clash of perspectives over how the G20 violence was handled by police.

Fenton "violated his oath of office" and "brought international disgrace upon the Toronto Police Service and the city is it supposed to serve," reads a statement of facts from complainants Shervin Akhavi and Jonathan Deshman.

Around 1,100 detained, arrested during G20 violence

During the Tuesday hearing, Lacy stressed that on June 26, 2010, Fenton was "tasked by his superiors to take back the city."

During the violence and vandalism of the summit — in which store windows were smashed and multiple vehicles were set ablaze — around 1,100 people were detained or arrested by police.

Fenton was in charge when one round of mass arrests happened outside the Novotel Hotel on The Esplanade and another at Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue.

Around 1,100 people — mostly peaceful protesters or innocent passersby — were detained or arrested during the 2010 G20 summit. (Canadian Press)

Most of the people detained were passersby or peaceful protesters, with many held in deplorable conditions at a makeshift detention centre. Almost all of them were released without charge within 24 hours.

The appeal, Lacy said during the hearing, is not about "systemic or institutional failings" of the police, but rather about the actions of a particular officer under particular circumstances.

"This is not a situation where Fenton had in front of him a blueprint," he said.

At Fenton's sentencing, retired justice John Hamilton acknowledged Fenton's misconduct had been "condoned by his superiors," who should have stopped him. 

Hamilton also said the superintendent was "motivated by fear" — but that fear didn't justify his actions.

The appeal hearing continues tomorrow.

With files from CBC News, Jean-Philippe Nadeau