Rachel Mendleson, Steve Buist
When judges in Canada must exclude key evidence, or throw out charges because police have violated the accused person’s charter rights, how are police held accountable? How do they learn from their mistakes? Too often they don’t, according to this project by the Toronto Star. The Unchartered series reveals a growing problem of serious Charter violations by police, and systemic failures which ensure the mistakes are not corrected. Through painstaking reporting The Star’s Rachel Mendleson and the Hamilton Spectator’s Steve Buist built a database of 600 serious Charter breach cases from the last decade. They uncovered more than 100 incidents of police misconduct cited by judges, including illegal body searches and degrading treatment while in custody, misconduct that the officers’ own police services did not know about. The Star revealed that in most provinces and territories, no formal system ensures police forces or even the officers involved are notified when a judge cites Charter violations as reason for reducing a sentence, excluding key evidence or tossing charges altogether. Unchartered pushed police forces from Toronto to Saskatchewan to initiate internal investigations of officer conduct and to review internal policies to ensure police are informed when charter violations are a factor in court decisions.