Conduct Case Summary MPCC-2012-005

The complainants, a married couple who were both members of the Canadian Forces (CF) at the time, attended a social function at a Canadian military base. A dispute arose over the use of a taxi and the complainant husband was alleged to have pushed two female civilians.  Two civilian males, one the spouse of one of the females who was allegedly pushed, then repeatedly and forcefully assaulted the complainant husband. The complainant wife then tried to move the assailants off the complainant husband.  In the course of this, she was alleged by some witnesses to have struck one of the male assailants in the head with a beer stein. The complainant wife was then struck in the head with a beer stein by that assailant’s spouse. Both complainants were taken to hospital and treated for their injuries, and released from the emergency department early the following morning.

Military Police (MP) members performed brief interviews at the scene. A few days later, the complainants went to their base MP detachment to register a complaint about the assaults. The lead investigator in the case, who was not one of the MP members who attended the scene of the altercation, interviewed several witnesses including the complainants, the two civilian females, the two male assailants, and several other witnesses who either were identified at the scene or were encouraged by the complainants and the other parties to the altercation to give statements. Approximately one week later, he laid charges of assault causing bodily harm against the two civilian male assailants. A few days after the two civilian male assailants were charged, the MP charged the complainant husband with assault for pushing the two civilian females, and the complainant wife with assault causing bodily harm for striking the male assailant with the beer stein. Ultimately the two male civilian assailants pleaded guilty. The complainant husband’s charge was withdrawn when he entered a peace bond. He was further dealt with administratively and was counselled by his unit for alcohol misuse. The complainant wife’s charges were withdrawn by the civilian Crown and her Chain of Command determined there was no basis for administrative action against her.

One independent eyewitness who was briefly interviewed at the scene was not interviewed until after charges were laid. He, along with other witnesses, provided evidence capable of identifying the female who assaulted the complainant wife with a beer stein. The lead investigator did not pursue charges against this female.

The complainants alleged that the MP investigation was incomplete, that information was recorded inaccurately in the MP General Occurrence file, and that it improperly led to criminal charges against the complainant wife and administrative action against the complainant husband. They also alleged that charges should have been pursued against the female who assaulted the complainant wife with a beer stein. They alleged that the lead investigator was unprofessional in his dealings with one witness, and alleged that it was possible that the evidence presented to the Crown for prosecution was tailored toward a particular result.

The MP Professional Standards (PS) review considered two allegations. First, they considered whether MP investigators contravened the Military Police Professional Code of Conduct (MPPCC) paragraph 4(1), which states an MP member shall not “engage in conduct that is likely to discredit the military police or that calls into question the member’s ability to carry out their duties in a faithful and impartial manner.” This was specified as a failure to complete a thorough and accurate investigation, which led to criminal charges being filed against both complainants. The second allegation was that MP investigators contravened the MPPCC paragraph 4(h), which states that an MP member shall not “knowingly suppress, misrepresent or falsify information in a report or statement.” This was specified as a failure to accurately capture and disclose information gathered from witnesses during the investigation.

The Professional Standards review found there was no violation of the MPPCC or the Military Police Policies and Technical Procedures (MPPTP). With respect to the first allegation, Professional Standards found that MP investigators conducted the investigation in compliance with the MPPTP and in compliance with the Criminal Code of Canada (Criminal Code), in particular with the provisions concerning arrest and arrest without a warrant. Professional Standards also concluded that the investigation furnished the reasonable and probable grounds (RPG) to pursue charges against the two male assailants of the complainants as well as the RPG to charge the complainants. The PS investigation found there was no violation of section 4(1) of the MPPCC.

With respect to the second allegation, the PS investigation noted that there were some problems with recording equipment during interviews and that the lead investigator had neither recorded nor taken notes during the complainants’ interviews. The PS investigation found that the lead investigator had properly and accurately entered the information obtained during the investigation into the Security and Military Police Information System (SAMPIS). It was found there was no violation of section 4(h) of the MPPCC.

Upon review, the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) determined that the original MP investigation was in many respects incomplete, in particular in the failure to follow up on evidence which supported charges against the civilian female and was potentially exculpatory for the complainants. The MPCC also determined the file contained inaccuracies, and by failing to thoroughly investigate and accurately record their interviews, the MP members dealing with a witness were unprofessional. The Crown brief was no longer available to review, thus the MPCC found there was no evidence in support of the allegation of tailoring the evidence presented to the Crown.  The MPCC found that the evidence did not support the laying of a charge against the complainant wife as the identification evidence was not strong, and she had a clear defence under s. 27 or s. 37 of the Criminal Code, which outline the circumstances in which one may commit what otherwise would be a criminal act in order to prevent the commission of an offence or to defend another person. The MPCC found the evidence did support the laying of charges against the civilian female. With respect to the complaint about the investigation leading to an administrative action the MPCC determined that review of the grounds for such a review was outside of its mandate and refrained from making any finding in this regard.

The MPCC made three recommendations in relation to this matter. First, the MPCC recommended that the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) remind MP members of the importance of following up on injuries in an investigation, particularly when injuries sustained by the parties may be relevant to the laying of charges and where there is an absence of victim/witness services. Second, it was recommended that the CFPM draft clearer policies and educational materials and training concerning when MP members should (and should not) “caution” (explicitly advise that they are not obligated to answer questions, but that if they do, their answers may be used as evidence against them in criminal proceedings) witnesses when being interviewed.  In particular, the use of what is termed a “soft caution”, and the cautioning of witnesses who are neither subjects nor suspects, should cease. Third, it was recommended the CFPM develop specific policies which stress the relationship between the quality of an investigation and professional standards, and make it clear that substandard investigations will be the subject of professional standards investigations despite not rising to the level of misconduct under the Military Police Professional Code of Conduct.

In response to the MPCC’s Report, the CFPM accepted all of the MPCC’s findings. The CFPM also accepted the MPCC’s recommendations, and stated they will be immediately implemented.

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