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RCMP detained woman too long, says judge

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 16/03) - Territorial court Judge Brian Bruser ruled RCMP violated the Charter of Rights when they detained a woman for more than 17 hours after she was charged with assault.

His solution was not to register a conviction for the assault. Bruser explained this is not a stay or an acquittal, but it does leave the woman with no criminal record.

It came out during the trial that the woman was upset with her husband on May 1, because she didn't trust him and had seen an unknown woman driving their car.

She wanted to talk about it. He preferred not to.

She blocked his way, but he managed to get past her. She held onto the waist of his pants as he walked up the stairs. Eventually, he came tumbling down.

The man, who sustained no injuries, called police.

RCMP heard the woman screaming and yelling from outside the home. The arresting officer told the woman she was under arrest, advised her of her rights and allowed her to change out of her housecoat before handcuffing her.

The woman then remained in custody for 17 hours.

Defence lawyer Jim Brydon filed a notice of motion on a constitutional issue.

On Friday, Bruser ruled that her arrest was lawful. But he said police misunderstood police policy when they detained her for so long. Investigating officers were under the misguided impression they must detain people charged with assault until a bail hearing -- when the victim is a spouse, said the judge.

Bruser pointed to section 11 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states a person charged with an offence has the right not to be denied bail without just cause.

In this case, there was no cause to detain her for such a long period of time, said the judge.

Bruser said police were not operating on bad faith. "But they made a mistake."