Editor’s note: This story contains sensitive subject matter.
A Rankin Inlet woman has successfully appealed her resisting arrest and simple assault convictions based on the way the RCMP treated her.
She was arrested on two separate occasions – September 2018 and May 2019 – after family members phoned the police to have her removed from her father’s home while she was intoxicated. In both instances, the woman was sitting on the front steps and not making a disturbance when the RCMP officers arrived.
Regardless, the police arrested her and took her to jail cells because she was intoxicated and “they did not know what else to do with her,” according to the court transcript.
The officers failed to inform the woman why she was being arrested, which turned out to be a charge of mischief. On the first occasion, they struggled with her to remove her clothes while in a jail cell. They didn’t ask her to remove her clothes for herself or explain why it was necessary. She resisted.
At one point during the struggle, the woman, while lying on the floor of the jail cell, kicked one of the two officers in the head. This resulted in a charge of assaulting a police officer.
The woman pleaded guilty to resisting arrest but told the court that she felt “very uncomfortable” while the officers forced her to obey orders in the jail cell, similar to times when she’d been physically abused in the past.
“It made me feel so hopeless and very upsetting,” she said.
The police sergeant involved in her first arrest testified that he was aware of the woman had suffered from abusive relationships.
On the second occasion, in May 2019, an RCMP officer arrived at the woman’s father’s house and told the woman she was under arrest. He commanded her to come down the front steps. When she didn’t immediately comply, he pulled her down by the arm. She consequently yelled and flailed her arms and legs, ripping the officer’s radio from his vest and swinging it around, according to the court transcript. The woman later kicked at the police while being placed in the back of the RCMP vehicle. That also brought about charges of assaulting a police officer.
Again, the Mounties didn’t tell the woman why she was being arrested.
Her lawyer argued that she was acting in self-defence on both occasions.
Although trial judge Susan Cooper found that the woman “played a significant role” in causing the officers to use force and she had the option to “simply stop struggling and fighting,” during the September 2018 incident, the Crown later admitted that there should have been a deeper examination of whether the arrest was lawful in the first place.
In regards to the May 2019 episode, Cooper deemed the arrest unlawful because the officer lacked reasonable and probable grounds. While the woman was found not guilty of resisting arrest and assaulting the officers in this instance, the judge determined that she used too much force in attempting to “disengage and resist, and crossed over into an attempt to harm.”
The judge decided instead that the accused was guilty of two counts of simple assault.
The Crown later conceded that new trials should be ordered in both cases.
The woman and her lawyer countered that she should be acquitted of all charges, alleging that the trial judge made errors of law.
Appeal judge Frederica Schutz agreed.
“The Crown is unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant was not acting in self-defence in respect of both incidents; nor are they able to prove that her actions were unreasonable in the sense of being an excessive response to the force being used against her by police.”
Schutz determined on Oct. 12. “in both incidents, the police were trying to effect an unlawful arrest and were using physical force against her in doing so.”
Without a lawful arrest, the appellant was entitled to resist, Schutz determined, adding that the officers’ search of the woman in the jail cell was “carried out in an unreasonably forceful manner.”
“It cannot be said, in the circumstances, that the kick to the officer’s head in the course of the appellant’s resistance and struggle during this unlawful assault upon her was unreasonable, nor was it excessive,” Schutz stated.
The judge also faulted the police for failing to communicate to the woman why she was being arrested.
Schutz quashed all of the woman’s convictions relating to both incidents and did not order a retrial.