The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the most fundamental set of laws we have in this country. In the context of police interactions, it gives us – as civilians – certain rights. For example:
- The freedom from unreasonable search or seizure
- The right to be told promptly why we are being arrested
- The right to speak to a lawyer if arrested
- The freedom from cruel or unusual punishment
However, a recent investigative report conducted by Torstar found that many police forces across Canada are either ignorant of these laws or else in willful violation of these rights.
Cases of infraction
The report found more than 600 cases of serious police Charter violations since 2017. This works out to be approximately two violations per week. Breaches were found at all stages of suspect apprehension – from how warrants were obtained to how searches were conducted to incorrect incarceration.
Some of the more serious infractions included:
- Police improperly holding evidence in violation of rules
- Police strip searching everyone they arrested
- Police using excessive force during arrest – such as punching or beating with a baton
Lack of consequences
An equally concerning finding of the report was that there was no formal tracking system in place for such infractions. In cases where a judge ruled that officers were in violation of the Charter, the officers were usually not reprimanded – or even notified – of the breach. This enables such behaviour to persist.
How a Charter breach can actually help your case
While the above trend is alarming, it does not mean that those who receive improper treatment from the police are without recourse. Police misconduct weakens the general public’s faith in the criminal justice system, and courts are taking action to rectify that. There has been a growing number of cases where judges have reduced charges or tossed out cases that involved police Charter violations.
If you are facing criminal charges and had your Charter rights denied, it’s worth speaking with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about your case. They can use this evidence to advocate on your behalf and build a stronger case for your acquittal.