The National Police Federation is criticizing comments a Nunavut judge made as he acquitted a prosecutor and RCMP officer of criminal contempt, saying the remarks were unnecessary and damaging.
Cpl. Andrew Kerstens and Crown prosecutor Emma Baasch were facing the charge for their joint actions in the July 2022 arrest of a man inside the Iqaluit courthouse who had been set to stand trial that morning.
Justice Paul Bychok took issue with the timing and location of the arrest, which delayed the proceedings.
The judge said earlier this month that Kerstens and Baasch’s actions were reckless, a direct and public insult to the integrity of the court and violated the man’s right to be present at his trial.
But he said they did not meet the requirements for a contempt of court conviction.
The police federation says it fully supports Kerstens and Baasch, who it says both acted professionally and fully within their legal authority and codes of conduct.
“We take exception with the judge’s negative and overblown commentary that accompanied their decision to acquit, which were both unnecessary and damaging to our member’s reputation and should not be repeated,” Chris Voller, director of the Pacific/North region for the police federation, said in a statement.
Kerstens arrested Robert Campbell on the morning of July 13, after he was informed by a Crown prosecutor the man was accused of intimidating a witness scheduled to testify at his trial that day.
During a hearing on the contempt charge in August, Kerstens’ lawyer told Bychok the officer and Baasch mutually agreed Campbell should be arrested and charged when he arrived at the courthouse.
In his decision, Bychok chastised Baasch for failing to give the court a “candid and full accounting and explanation” of her involvement in the arrest.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said in a statement it fully supports Baasch and believes she acted ethically at all times.
—By Emily Blake, The Canadian Press. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.