Judge finds officer kneed anti-war protester in cell

January 8, 2011

An Ottawa police special constable kneed handcuffed antiwar protester Claude Haridge in a jail cell after his arrest for assaulting police, a judge has found, despite the officer’s claims in court under oath he did no such thing.

Ontario Court Justice Ann Alder found Haridge’s Charter rights were violated, but declined to stay charges.

“While I believe Mr. Haridge exaggerated about the amount of force that was used and the resulting pain that he suffered, I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that he was kneed by Special Constable (Glenmore) Clark for no apparent reason as soon as he entered that holding cell.

“This is clearly a violation of Mr. Haridge’s Section 7 rights (under the Charter of Rights, to life, liberty and security),” said Alder.

In her decision, the judge said she found the testimony of both Clark and Haridge to be riddled with inconsistencies, but ultimately believed Haridge was kneed once in the right leg without provocation.

Haridge had been arrested after throwing a paint-filled balloon at a bus outside the CANSEC military trade show being held at Lansdowne Park on May 27, 2009.

Police allege Haridge, 51, punched an officer in the chin after several tackled him when he tried to run away after throwing the balloon, which splattered paint on the jackets of police officers.

Haridge is facing charges of assaulting police, mischief and unlawful assembly. He is also facing unrelated charges related to the careless storage of ammunition stemming from the investigation into the May firebombing of a Glebe bank.

Haridge testified that Clark — a reservist in the Canadian Forces — warned Haridge to never look him in the eye and said Haridge was Clark’s “bitch” before kneeing him.

Clark laughed off those allegations in court, telling Alder that the only time he touched Haridge was to sit him down after he “tensed up” when Clark first put him in the holding cell.

A cellblock video showed a cooperative Haridge being led into a cell by Clark, but did not record the kneeing — unlike the recent case of Stacy Bonds, whose charges of assaulting police were stayed after she was kneed and had her shirt and bra cut off following an unlawful arrest. Subsequent video showed Haridge walking with a limp after Clark emerged from a cell, Alder said.

The judge found the evidence of the “argumentative” and “defensive” Clark did not match up with the testimony of another officer, Const. Matthew Cox. Clark testified that Haridge tensed up the moment he was put in the cell, but Cox testified he didn’t see Haridge resist until a full 18 seconds later.

That difference was “substantial,” Alder said.

Alder said she also found it “very troubling” that the “nervous” Cox couldn’t explain why he seemed to be smirking and laughing immediately before walking away from the cell.

Alder noted that Clark seemed to take a “flippant” attitude toward the case. During his testimony, Clark suggested he wouldn’t have called Haridge his bitch because he was “straight” — an indication that Clark “doesn’t take these proceedings very seriously,” Alder said.

An internal Ottawa police investigation has already cleared Clark of any wrongdoing.

Alder made the finding despite what she called Haridge’s “greatly exaggerated” testimony, which she believed showed his “somewhat jaded and biased” attitude toward police.

Haridge has “an extremely negative and unfounded perception of police,” said Alder, who didn’t accept a psychologist’s “misleading” and error-filled report that Haridge was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Despite ruling that Haridge’s rights had been violated, Alder said the abuse was not serious enough to warrant a stay of proceedings. It was in the public interest to proceed to trial, particularly on the charge of unlawful assembly, she said.

Other remedies, such as a reduction of his sentence if he is found guilty or a civil lawsuit, were still available, she said. Haridge has already filed a $10,000 lawsuit.

“It is important to remember that a stay should not be used to punish police,” said Alder. “While this is a serious breach given Mr. Haridge was in custody in handcuffs when he was assaulted, it cannot be described as a beating.”

Outside of court, Haridge said he was disappointed he didn’t get a stay but it was still a victory.

“For me it’s the environment that has to be exposed and hopefully it will lead to some change,” said Haridge.

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