An Ontario judge has dismissed a drug trafficking case against a man after it was found “reasonable” to believe that Toronto police officers had stolen approximately $6,000 in cash during a warrant execution at the man’s apartment. The officers claimed to have found $19,390 in cash along with a quantity of cocaine, but the accused alleged that the amount taken was $6,000 higher. The defense lawyer, Kim Schofield, claimed that evidence presented in court showed that the stacks of cash in photographs taken by the police were different sizes, which raised suspicions of theft.
In the court proceedings, the prosecution claimed that the officer responsible for handling the money seized did not steal any cash and blamed the missing $6,000 on clerical errors. However, Judge Andras Screck said the officer was not a “credible witness” for a number of reasons, including but not limited to a “shifting explanation” on why any money was missing in the first place. The judge also found the defense’s ability to show how they bundled the cash, which lined up with police notes detailing the denominations seized, as credible.
The judge granted a stay of proceedings on Wednesday, which permanently halts the prosecution of an accused, because the accused’s Charter rights were violated, a pretrial ruling states. Judge Screck underlined that missing money does not automatically mean the cash was stolen by the police officer. However, given its inherent value, this is a reasonable inference.
When reached for comment following Screck’s decision, a spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service said it will “review the judgment and any new evidence that may have been presented in court, and if need be, will take appropriate action.” Before pre-trial proceedings were initiated, the defense took the additional step of asking Toronto police to conduct an internal investigation into the alleged theft. The Professional Standards Unit complied with the request and investigated but found the allegations were unsubstantiated. Schofield expressed doubts in response to the service’s commitment to action, if needed.