Attorney General of Ontario v. Jamie Clark, et al.
(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)
Crown law - Crown liability, Torts, Judgments and orders, Summary judgments - Crown law - Crown liability - Torts - Misfeasance in public office - Judgments and orders - Summary judgments - Applicant’s motion to strike respondents’ claims allowed in part -Respondent’s claim for misfeasance in public office against Crown Attorneys allowed to proceed - Are Attorney General and Crown Attorneys absolutely immune from civil liability to claimants who were not the subject of a prosecution? - Should misfeasance claims against Crown prosecutors based on allegations of recklessness or wilful blindness be prohibited?.
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In 2009, the respondents, who are all police officers, arrested and charged two individuals in connection with an armed robbery and forcible confinement. Both accused provided videotaped statements. One of the accused provided a false exculpatory statement and the other provided a statement admitting to their involvement in the crime. They both later claimed that the police officers had assaulted them during their arrests. The officers denied that any assaults had taken place and provided the Crown Attorney with exculpatory evidence that supported their position. Proceedings against one of the accused were stayed on the basis of the assault claim. The other accused was convicted of the charges but he subsequently brought a Charter application seeking to stay the proceedings against him on the ground that the respondents had assaulted him. However, the exculpatory evidence provided by the police was never made known to the court. The trial judge decided that a reduced sentence was the appropriate remedy to address the assault claim. The accused appealed and the Court of Appeal upheld the assault finding and entered a stay of proceedings. Both sets of reasons from the courts contained language that was highly critical of the conduct of police officers during the arrests of the two accused.
The police officers brought an action against the Attorney General for Ontario, alleging that the Crown Attorneys involved failed to pursue and put forward available evidence that contradicted the assault claims of the accused. They alleged that the Crown’s actions and omissions caused irreparable harm to their reputations. Their claims were based on allegations of negligence and misfeasance in public office. The Attorney General brought a motion to strike their claims. The motion judge struck the claim in negligence but allowed the claim for misfeasance in public office to proceed. Both parties appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the motion judge.
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