Law Times

March 16, 2015

The premier weekly newspaper for the legal profession in Ontario

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 0 of 15

By yamri Taddese Law Times n a legal first, a Superior Court judge has ordered the Durham Re- gional Police Service to pay $345,000 in damages for releasing the identity of a confidential informant who faced her neighbours' wrath and harassment for speaking to police. "It's the first case in which there has been civil liability for police breach of informer privilege," says Niagara Falls, Ont., lawyer Margaret Hoy, who represented the plaintiff. Her client "had every bit of confidence in the police and she was let down," says Hoy. In Nissen v. Durham Regional Police, Justice Douglas Gray ruled against the police force after finding officer James Liepsig, who denied ever promising confidentiality to the informant, had notes that were "sketchy at best" and his story didn't add up. "Even if liability is not absolute, at the very least there must be a duty to take reasonable care to preserve anonymity," wrote Gray. "In this case, it is clear that reasonable care was not taken." Gray also made a finding of a private law duty of care to the plaintiff in this case that leaves the door open for more lawsuits against police facing accusations of breaching informant privilege. The ruling is "precedent setting," says Sean Dewart, a lawyer who had previously acted in a matter regarding Crown counsel disclosing an informant's identity. The informant in that matter had sought $3 million in damages, but the parties later settled the matter under strict confidentiality. "My experience, both from the case I was involved in and other cas- es, is that the police are so fixated on conviction that they quickly forget the obligation they owe to the informant," says Dewart. "Informants are frequently in a very vulnerable position." The case before Gray involved circumstances more fitting for a Hol- lywood drama than a quiet residential street in Whitby, Ont., where the Prof praises legal advice pilot for sex assault victims By yamri Taddese Law Times pilot program to give victims of sexual vio- lence free legal advice is the most promising part of the Ontario government's new plan to stop sexual violence from the justice system's perspective, according to a Dalhousie Univer- sity law professor. "I think that's huge and it has huge potential to respond to what continues to be this problem of sexual assault complainants ex- periencing the criminal justice process as traumatic," says Elaine Craig, an assistant professor at Dalhousie whose work focuses on the experience of victims of sexual assault in the justice system. "It's something I've personally urged in the past." Craig says she'd like the pilot project to go even one step fur- ther to provide for fully funded legal representation for victims of sexual assault. Toronto criminal defence law- yer David Butt provides legal as- sistance to victims of sexual as- sault. He, too, says it's crucial that victims have legal representation in court whenever the process en- gages their constitutional rights. "I have the deepest respect for Crown attorneys, but they don't act for complainants and they will be the first ones to tell you that," says Butt. "So you have a justice system where the defence, a vigorous ad- vocate, is totally dedicated to the defence interest. The community has a vigorous advocate totally dedicated to the community's in- terest. Who acts for the victim? Nobody." Premier Kathleen Wynne's action plan, dubbed It's Never Okay, also includes a proposal that would see Crown counsel and po- lice receive mentorship and train- ing on how to deal with cases of sexual violence. The plan also includes amend- ing the Limitations Act to remove deadlines for pursuing civil sexual assault claims. In addition, the scheme would see an amendment to rental-housing legislation to It ' s back 2015 CANADIAN LAWYER'S LEGAL FEES SURVEY Complete the survey online at and let us know what you are charging for various transactions and services in multiple practice areas. Survey closes March 30 Police liable for breaching informer confidentiality Court finds private law duty of care in precedent-setting case Call to aCtion Judge becoming champion of efficiency P4 Law schooL overhauL Fundraisers show need for change P6 FoCUS on Litigation P8 See Defence, page 5 'What we're staring at is a profound systemic failing,' says David Butt. PM #40762529 & $#&!&jmmm$cYa[bbWh$Yec ntitled-4 1 12-03-20 10:44 AM $5.00 • Vol. 26, No. 9 March 16, 2015 Follow LAW TIMES on L AW TIMES I A saga involving several neighbours began in 2002. At the time, Margaret Stack, a resident of Warden Wil- son Avenue, found out her neighbours' sons, Patrick and Sean, who sometimes looked after her kids, may have stolen guns from other neighbours and taken the weapons to school to threaten students. The weapons belonged to Cathy and Bryon Whitney, who lived on the same street. When a hys- terical Cathy told Stack about the missing guns and who might have taken them, Stack urged her to call police and Cathy agreed to do so when her husband came home. Stack, noticing police hadn't attended the home, made calls to friends who might know a "trusted" police officer to share the information with. She made it clear she didn't want any associa- tion with the investigation, according to her account as written by Gray. 'We need people to be able to come forward and give information without concern to their safety,' says Margaret Hoy. Photo: Robin Kuniski See Cops, page 5

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Law Times - March 16, 2015