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Coroner hears arguments on police watchdog report

01/24/2012 02:34 EST | Updated 03/25/2012 05:12 EDT

An Ontario coroner has reserved his decision on whether to allow a report from a police watchdog to be used at an inquest into Junior Manon’s death.

Manon was an 18-year-old who died shortly after being arrested by a pair of Toronto police officers on May 5, 2010.

Dr. Dan Cass, the coroner presiding over the inquest, heard arguments Tuesday over whether to include a report on alleged police misconduct from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) that cites an officer who was involved in Manon’s arrest.

Toronto police Const. Michael Adams was one of two officers involved in the arrest of Manon in 2010.

The 18-year-old fled police on foot before being tackled and dying from what a pathologist determined was "positional asphyxia."

While the Special Investigations Unit found no reason to charge the officers involved in the arrest, Adams was involved in another controversial incident within weeks of Manon’s death.

Adams was among a group of officers involved in the violent arrest of Adam Nobody on June 26, 2010, during a G20 protest at Queen’s Park, which the OIPRD deemed as “discreditable” in a recent report. The same OIPRD report recommended that the officers involved in the Nobody arrest face misconduct charges for using excessive force and for discreditable conduct.

Manon’s family wants that report to be part of the evidence at the inquest, so that the jury can decide if Adams has a “propensity to use excessive force,” as they are reviewing the details of the case.

Manon family 'does not accept this as a coincidence'

On Tuesday, lawyer Julian Falconer, acting for the family, argued that Adams’ statements to investigators in both the Manon and Nobody probes that he delivered "distraction" blows is a subterfuge.

"This is code in the policing world for punching people,” Falconer said.

Falconer said it is relevant for the inquest to consider how Adams ended up involved in two controversial incidents in such a short period of time.

"The Manon family does not accept this is a coincidence. There is something wrong with Adams’ training, or his perception of his training," he said.

Falconer said Tuesday that he would be content with being able to cross-examine Adams about a statement he made in the report, in lieu of having the entire OIPRD report entered as evidence.

However, both Adams’ lawyer and the OIPRD itself, say the report should not be part of the inquest.

The officer’s lawyer, Gary Clewley, contends that Adams’ involvement in the Nobody arrest is irrelevant to the inquest.

“As to whether Adams is, you know, ‘out of control,’ I mean that’s the argument,” Clewley told CBC News on Tuesday.

“I don’t think that’s fair to him and there’s another forum for it. There’s a civil suit out there and if there is a Police Act hearing against Adams, they get to make the argument there, too. I don’t think this is the place for it.”

Tabling of report could create ‘chilling effect’

The OIPRD is also opposed to having its report tabled as evidence at the Manon inquest, for fears that it could create a “chilling effect” on its ability to probe future complaints from the public.

Lawyers representing the OIPRD appeared at the inquest on Tuesday to object to the Manon family’s push to include G20 video and the report at the inquest.

In written submissions, OIPRD director Gerry McNeilly said that having the report tabled “will very likely have a chilling effect on the decisions of complainants, witnesses and respondent officers to participate in IPRD investigations. This in turn will have a negative effect on the IPRD’s ability to fully and fairly investigate a public complaint.”

McNeilly also said that his investigators’ findings from the G20 should be ruled “inadmissible” at the inquest and could ultimately taint upcoming disciplinary hearings against Adams.

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