From the Toronto Star:
'Technicality' freed protesters
Police didn't have warrant to arrest 100 people at G20, but still had grounds to do so, Blair says
Dan Robson Toronto Star
A "legal technicality" forced charges to be dropped for about 100 people rounded up by officers as they slept in a university gym during the G20 weekend.
The problem is that police didn't have a warrant, says Police Chief Bill Blair.
Regardless, the officers acted on "reasonable and probable" grounds when they made the arrests on June 27, Blair told the House of Commons safety committee on Wednesday.
They didn't think a warrant was necessary, he said.
"Officers don't always need a warrant to make an arrest," said police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray. "It was after the fact that the Crown attorney determined that they did."
On Oct. 14, the Crown dropped all charges against the group, which hailed mostly from Quebec and was invited to stay in the University of Toronto gym by the graduate students' union.
The Crown agrees police had "reasonable and probable grounds" to make the arrests, but it couldn't find a "reasonable prospect of conviction" against any of them, said spokesman Brendan Crawley.
Police say many of those arrested had black clothing and "weapons of opportunity," such as rocks, bricks and sharp objects. It was the same style of clothing and weaponry used by the Black Bloc during the violent rampage that tore through the downtown core the day before.
Those arrested say they were threatened with rubber bullets. Some say they were kicked in the ribs. Some had their hands bound with zip ties. Some spent more than two days in a makeshift detention centre. To police, the arrests were a practical tactic to prevent more destruction.
To those detained, they were a violation of rights and an unwarranted show of force.
The lack of a warrant does "not negate the fact that they had evidence to make the arrest," Blair told the safety committee.
That evidence has only been seen by police investigators and the Crown, which found no grounds for conviction.
"The charges were dropped before any disclosure was provided," said lawyer Luba Szkambara, who represents four people arrested in the gym. "So, I really can't tell you very much about what (evidence) there was, except that there wasn't enough evidence to proceed," Szkambara said.
Etienne Poitras, a Montreal lawyer who represented eight people rounded up in the gym, said the undisclosed evidence and the Crown's dismissal of the charges tells the story. "They didn't have any proof against them for any charge," he said.
Blair, however, was steadfast in his defence of the Integrated Security Unit's actions. "The courts determine guilt or innocence," Blair told the committee. "The police have to act on reasonable and probable grounds," Blair said. "And that's what took place in this case."
Of more than 1,100 people were arrested during the G20 weekend, only 315 were charged. Of those, fewer than two dozen still face trials
The Crowns suggestion that a warrant was required is bizarre. Unless an unreasonable amount of time lapsed between the offence and the officers identifying the people in the crowd a warrant is not required.
I think its more political than anything else.