Police Assault on Good Samaritan

Orillia Ontario Canada Good Samaritan Criminal Case

Her Majesty v Farrell, Maria Ontario Court of Justice 2014

When police assault citizen providing aid to a victim of crime and try to assist police.

Though I tend to focus on important Supreme Court Canada and Charter of Rights cases sometimes it’s the small cases that have a bigger impact on peoples civil liberties, and their perceptions on government, police and Crown Attorney (criminal prosecution) conduct, fairness and justice, and the relationship between the Crown and Citizens. The Good Samaritan Criminal Case is one such case.  The circumstances of the case could be anyone, anywhere in Canada and any police force.  Most of us have been Good Samaritans at one time or another and/or assisted the police, this case is an example of how things can wrong so fast, with life altering results. When Good Samaritans face criminal charges for being Good Samaritans, of assaulting police.

Recently the Toronto Star and other newspapers have reported on the Good Samaritan Case, where a woman came to the aid of another woman who had been assaulted only to end up arrested.  The Good Samaritan, Maria “Tonie” Farrell was arrested by a police officer (OPP) for assault on a police officer and obstruction of police officer under the Criminal Code Canada. Plus Maria Farrell was severely injured during the arrest and may have a long term disability as a result.

Below you will find a complete copy of Ontario Court of Justice, Judge George Beatty’s decision and his comments on the conduct of the OPP officer.  I always feel that it is important that people have direct access to the source of a story, especially if that source is a court decision and judge’s comments. The file in pdf form.

Good Samaritan Case Summation.

Good Samaritan Ms. Farrell witnessed a woman getting assaulted by 3 people in car park around 2am and went to her aid, attackers fled.  Another witness called 911.  Police arrived (OPP) quickly, the number of constables varied during the incident from 1-5.  Ms. Farrell tried to have a conversation with Sgt. Watson that quickly escalated to her being arrested. During the conversation Ms. Farrell testified that Sgt Watson was very aggressive and told her to “shut the fuck up”.  In the “scuffle” of her arrest Ms. Farrell ended up injured and on the ground landing head first, from a hand chop to her face, a harsh kick, and the officer falling on her, which resulted in facial injuries, a knee injury and damaged leg, broken tibia.  Ms. Farrell may have been unco-operative during her arrest, but she was non-violent, not aggressive, and in defensive postures. Sgt. Watson claimed Ms. Farrell had “taken a poke” at him. As a result of Sgt Watson’s conduct Ms. Farrell suffered injuries to her neck and back, crushed knee, 2 operations to repair her tibia with a plate, knee replacement, lost tooth, and walks with a cane.  Ms. Farrell was charged with obstructing and assaulting Sgt. Watson a police officer with Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) on April 2 2013. [Source R v Farrell, Maria Ontario Court of Justice Dec 16 2014, Orillia #13-0543 written by Judge W. G. Beatty (WGB)]

Criminal Code Canada Charges.

 Every one who (a) resists or willfully obstructs a public officer or peace officer in the execution of his duty or any person lawfully acting in aid of such an officer, (b) omits, without reasonable excuse, to assist a public officer or peace officer in the execution of his duty in arresting a person or in preserving the peace, after having reasonable notice that he is required to do so, or (c) resists or willfully obstructs any person in the lawful execution of a process against lands or goods or in making a lawful distress or seizure, is guilty of (d) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or (e) an offence punishable on summary conviction. [R.S., c. C-34, s. 118; 1972, c. 13, s. 7.]  s129CCC.

 (1) Every one commits an offence who (a) assaults a public officer or peace officer engaged in the execution of his duty or a person acting in aid of such an officer; (b) assaults a person with intent to resist or prevent the lawful arrest or detention of himself or another person; or (c) assaults a person (i) who is engaged in the lawful execution of a process against lands or goods or in making a lawful distress or seizure, or (ii) with intent to rescue anything taken under lawful process, distress or seizure. (2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction. [R.S., c. C-34, s. 246; 1972, c. 13, s. 22; 1980-81-82-83, c. 125, s. 19.] s270CCC.

Findings of Trial Judge, Justice G.W. Beatty.

Ms Farrell was acting as a Good Samaritan who went to the assistance of [victim] who was being assaulted by three others. Ms Farrell had no criminal record and wanted to assist [OPP] Sgt Watson in identifying the assailants. [OPP] Sgt Watson’s demeanor on the witness stand was curt and somewhat aggressive. A reasonable inference is that Ms Farrell was telling the truth  when she said that Sgt Watson told her to “Shut the fuck up”. Sgt Watson provided no explanation as to how Ms Farrell’s [injuries occurred] Sgt Watson’s recollection of events is suspect. Sgt Watson fell on top of her. Ms Farrell weighed 140 lbs at the time and Sgt Watson is a large and powerfully built man.  There is no doubt that Ms Farrell would be in pain from multiple injuries and trying to cover her face from further damage. If Ms Farrell did touch Sgt Watson, the assault would be of such minimal consequences as to not attract criminal liability. [Touching officer’s label] The allegations that Ms Farrell tried to kick Sgt Watson’s legs is not supported by the evidence. Ms Farrell  showed no intent to obstruct his investigation. Her excitement and zeal may have been distracting for Sgt Watson. Ms Farrell intended to assist the investigation.

Police officers are trained and experienced in handling people who are intoxicated, drug addicted, mentally ill, armed or violent.  They apply their psychological skills and the minimum of force in maintaining the peace and protecting the public. That did not happen in this case. [Charges] must be dismissed.

I have edited and paraphrased the above findings of Justice W.G. Beatty, the original paragraph with proper citation was too cumbersome and hard to read. The original findings of Justice G.W. Beatty can be found on pages 6-8 of the decision.  R v Farrell, Maria Ontario Court of Justice Dec 16 2014, Orillia #13-0543 written by Judge W. G. Beatty (WGB)

Complete Ontario Court of Justice decision.

Download decision here> R v FARRELL PDF.
Ontario Court of Justice (City of Orillia, court file 13-0543)
December 16 2014 written by Judge W.G. Beatty.

Ontario Provincial Police Response.

The OPP police sergeant was subject to three investigations (SIU, Office of Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), Section 11 Police Services Act investigation). OPP noted the OPP Professional Standards Bureau “conducted a thorough, conduct-related investigation and reported its findings back to OIPRD.” The OPP stated the Professional Standards Bureau investigation “did not find any misconduct on the officer’s part.”

SIU Police Conduct Investigation.

The Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) conducted a month long investigation into this incident but decided that there was no reasonable grounds to lay charges against OPP Sgt Watson. This is occurred before the trial court decision and Justice findings on Sgt Watson’s conduct and it is unclear whether the SIU will re-open the investigation. Former SIU director and current Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin believes the investigation should be re-opened.  Andre Marin questioned the secrecy behind the SIU investigation and believes that transparency requires disclosure.  Ms Farrell’s criminal defence lawyer filed an Access to Information request to see the SIU investigation findings but she was denied.  Ms Farrell now has permanent disabilities and is unable to work. (Toronto Star).

Background News Stories (post court decision).

  • Dec 16 2014 Intelligencer “Judge slams OPP officer acquits Good Samaritan” Intell1.
  • Dec 18 2014 CTV Barrie “Good Samaritan from Orillia acquitted; continues fight for justice” with video CTVbarrie1.
  • Dec 29 2014 Toronto Star “Good deed punished – at the hands of cop” TOstar1.
  • Dec 30 2014 Toronto Star “Ex-SIU chief says probe into cop beating of Good Samaritan should be re-opened” TOstar2.
  • Jan 7 2015 Toronto Sun “Orillia woman [Good Samaritan] waits for investigation into her beating” TOsun1.
  • Jan 7 2015 Barrie Examiner “Orillia [Good Samaritan] beating victim waiting in limbo” barrieEx1
  • Jan 12 2015 Toronto Star Readers Letters “Good Samaritan case a disgrace” TOstar3.
  • Jan 19 2015 Cambridge Times “Protestors demand justice outside Orillia OPP detachment” CamTimes1.
  • Jan 19 2015 Barrie Examiner “Protestors picket OPP [police] detachment” barrieEx2.

Thank you for reading, Richard.

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