Sudbury — A $4-million lawsuit alleging police brutality can proceed against the Greater Sudbury Police Services Board and a now-dead police officer, a judge has ruled.
At the same time, Superior Court Justice Alex Kurke dismissed allegations against four others named in the suit filed by Tanner Currie.
Kurke called the allegations against Staff Sgt. John Valtonen, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and Crown attorney Molly Flanagan frivolous or abusive, or both.
His ruling dealt with a motion by the Attorney General of Ontario and the Crown to strike Currie’s statement of claim without leave to amend and to dismiss the action against them.
“The claim as against her Majesty the Queen is struck without leave to amend,” Kurke concluded. “It is plain and obvious that the claim cannot proceed even with amendment, as it is estopped and abusive, or relies on the alleged negligence of Flanagan, which cannot be maintained as an action …
“In all the circumstances of this case, the claims relating to the (Office of the Independent Police Review) cannot proceed. They are frivolous, abusive, and disclose no reasonable cause of action. The plaintiff’s claim is struck as against the Attorney General of Ontario without leave to amend …
“It is plain and obvious that none of the claims made by the plaintiff against Flanagan or the (Office of the Independent Police Review), and through them, the Crown defendants, can be sustained or permitted to proceed.”
As a result of Kurke’s ruling, only Const. Christopher Labreche and the Greater Sudbury Police Service Board remain as defendants in the lawsuit. On July 4, Labreche, 37, was killed in a motor vehicle collision on Highway 69 near the French River, south of Greater Sudbury.
None of the allegations contained in the lawsuit have been proven in a court a law.
Currie 25, alleges Const. Labreche assaulted him June 8, 2014, in a suit filed by local lawyer Trent Falldien.
Flanagan was the prosecutor who withdrew the assault charge against Labreche. Valtonen was the officer who prepared a report for the Office of the Independent Police Review.
Currie is seeking $2 million in special, general, aggravated and/or punitive damages from the individuals and organizations, and another $2 million under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for “breaches to the Plaintiff’s guaranteed rights.”
The 14-page statement of claim, which sets out 26 points and facts concerning the case, is also seeking:
– a declaration the Office of the Independent Police Review is not acting independently and/or in the interests of the public;
– a ruling the Office of the Independent Police Review Director is structured in a biased fashion in favour of police;
– an admission the office should not use only police services or former police officers to investigate police complaints;
– an external audit of the office to determine potential bias; and
– an order that the office be abolished and replaced.
In his statement of claim, Currie states he did not resist during the initial arrest, but Const. Labreche contrived the appearance of resistance to justify the alleged assault.
In particular, Currie alleges Labreche punched him twice on the right side of his face.
Then, while in the holding area at police headquarters, Currie claims he was denied a breath test to prove he was not drunk, had his head smashed into a glass window and that he was put in a holding cell for about 45 minutes before receiving medical attention.
As well, Currie alleged Flanagan, a Crown attorney from Toronto, did not consult with him before withdrawing the criminal charge against Labreche on Oct. 6, 2015, consequently breaching his right under Section 7 of the Charter regarding the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
The lawsuit also alleged Flanagan relied heavily on the report Valtonen provided for the Office of the Independent Police Review in her decision to withdraw the charge against Labreche.
The suit said the report consisted of a three-hour interview by Valtonen of Currie during which he never asked Currie if he feared for his safety as a result of the June 8, 2014, incident.
In addition, the suit claims the report did not look into injuries Currie suffered, that it did not deal with prior alleged misconduct by Labreche, and that Labreche’s statements were “outlandish” and contradicted by video evidence.
Currie said that as a result of the alleged incident, he has injuries that include vision impairment, memory difficulties, post-traumatic stress disorder, a stiff and sore neck with loss of range of motion, and frequent sore throats with trouble swallowing.
As a result, Currie no longer participates in sports and there will be a loss of economic opportunities due to a damaged reputation.
The Birnie Law Firm of North Bay, which filed a seven-page statement of defence April 28, 2016, on behalf of Valtonen, Labreche and the police board, denied most of the allegations and said the defendants were only carrying out their duties.
Falldien told The Star in May of 2016 he tried in Superior Court to have the criminal case reopened. He said he wanted to play the video evidence of Labreche allegedly assaulting Currie while in the holding area at police headquarters June 8, 2014.
Falldien, however, said Justice Dan Cornell “refused to let us play the video evidence,” dismissed the motion and ordered Currie to pay court costs.
“We wanted a whole new case,” said Falldien. “The question for Judge Cornell was whether it was right for the Crown to withdraw (the assault charge against Labreche) without consulting Mr. Currie.”
In 2016, Falldien filed a motion in Superior Court to have the case brought back under private prosecution after Flanagan dismissed the charge against Labreche. That followed an unsuccessful Superior Court motion by Falldien to have the case brought back under private prosecution.
Greater Sudbury Police decided in 2014 not to charge Labreche, so Falldien took the case to a justice of the peace in January 2015, who ruled there was sufficient evidence to charge the officer. At that point, the Crown’s office got involved and said it would handle Labreche’s prosecution.
A report by the Office of the Independent Police Review looking into a complaint against Labreche in 2015 found the complaint was unsubstantiated. Details of the report were not made public.
Filed in 2016, the lawsuit has less than two years left to go to trial, if it does proceed. No date has been set for the case to go to a pre-trial meeting, or for it to go on an assignment list, which would lead to a trial date being set.