Friday, July 3, 2009

Judge blasts Niagara police for "abuse" of authority

Tasered man awarded $50,000


ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Blasting Niagara Regional Police officers for flouting the law and abusing their authority, a judge has sided with a St. Catharines man who claimed he was falsely arrested and Tasered multiple times.

In his civil court ruling, Judge Raymond Harris said the officers who stopped Michael Parsons in 2003 on the outskirts of Niagara Falls weren’t in danger from Parsons. But Parsons was in danger from them.

“The actions of the officers in this case are very troubling and offensive and I suspect would deeply sadden and shock the community in which they were perpetrated,” Harris wrote in his 80-page decision released earlier this week. “Each of these officers abused their position of authority in a manner which cannot be condoned.”

The judge found there were no reasonable grounds to stop Parsons, a passenger in a Jeep, and that he was Tasered more than three times without justification.

Harris considered the assault on Parsons so “offensive and egregious,” he awarded punitive damages, noting they are rare and exceptional.

And although the 30-year-old was awarded $50,000 in total damages, the judge indicated he would have given more if Parsons had asked for more.

He said the events were deserving of strong condemnation from the court.

“Each of the officers that night decided to flout the law for their own purposes,” Harris wrote.

Parsons said he was pleased with the outcome.

“It wasn’t about monetary gain, it was about justice,” he said Tuesday.

Parsons sued the Niagara police service and five officers — Michael Woodfine, Dino Cirillo, Todd Priddle, James Tallevi and Darren Forbes — for negligence, false arrest, assault, malicious prosecution and breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The civil trial was held in Welland Superior Court in March.

Court heard that on Dec. 18, 2003, Parsons, who was known to police, was a passenger in a Jeep being driven by his fiancee. He testified he yelled “Hey Baby” out the window at a police officer he recognized. A short time later, the Jeep was pulled over.

Parsons said he was dragged out of the Jeep onto the ground, assaulted, choked, pulled into a ditch and repeatedly Tasered. He estimated he was shocked 10 to 15 times on his legs, throat, buttocks, scrotum, back and handcuffs.

Officers took Parsons to a police station, where he was charged with assaulting police and resisting arrest.

Those charges were later withdrawn by the Crown.

Toronto Sun

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