After being expelled from school for almost a year over aggravated assault and weapons charges a judge has since thrown out, a Toronto teen will be allowed to return to class in time for second semester next month.
The 17-year-old has been attending a small strict-discipline program since being expelled last February for her part in an all-girl brawl outside Oakwood Collegiate Institute in which two students were injured.
While a judge stayed the charges, which wrongly labelled her the ringleader, the school had no choice but to expel the student under Ontario's new zero-tolerance policy because she wielded a metal pipe during the fray, said Sheila Ward, who chairs the Toronto District School Board.
"What killed her was that pipe, because under the Safe Schools Act, a principal is compelled to expel any student that causes injury with a weapon, whether it's a gun or an ashtray," Ward said yesterday.
The girl, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, had never been in trouble before, but she was denied bail and spent two weeks in jail because of what the judge called "sloppy" and "misleading" police work.
In an interview yesterday, her mother said reading books from the jail book cart kept the teen from "losing it" during the time she shared a cell with a prisoner who suffered from seizures, under frequent "lockdown" at the Vanier Centre for Women.
The girl, a strong B student, was expelled indefinitely from any public school in Ontario for violating the Safe Schools Act. It requires a principal to expel a student who commits an assault with a weapon that causes injury requiring medical attention.
The teen enrolled in a new alternative program for expelled students run by Queen's Park. While there, she earned nine credits, completed mandatory counselling and now qualifies to return to a public high school for the rest of Grade 11, Ward said.
Trustee Patrick Rutledge yesterday called on the Toronto Police Services Board to set aside a seat for a school trustee as a way of improving understanding between schools and police.
"At least five or six times every day there are interactions between the police and schools, but often the police don't understand we operate under different procedures than they do."
But Alan Heisey, the new chair of the police services board, said reserving a seat for a trustee could be tricky, even though he has called for the board to be expanded by two seats.
"It's an interesting idea, but there are a large number of stakeholders who could make claims for a seat on the board - members of the aboriginal community, for example, or the African Canadian community," he said.
In what seems like an academic Catch-22, a Toronto teen accused of assault last year agreed to be expelled so she could continue her studies rather than fight the expulsion but lose access to classes, her lawyer says.
The girl, whose charges were thrown out of court last month because of "sloppy" police work, spent the last four months of Grade 10 and the first four months of Grade 11 in a small, strict program for expelled students away from her neighbourhood school for no reason, lawyer Paula Rochman said.
Add to that the two harrowing weeks the girl spent in jail awaiting bail, and the whole experience has changed the young woman's life, she said in an interview yesterday.
"I couldn't believe it - she had to agree to being expelled in order to continue her studies, which she really wants to do and go on to university," said Rochman, who describes the teen as a "wonderful student" who had not been in trouble before being involved in a brawl outside Oakwood Collegiate Institute last February in which two students were injured.
In a ruling Dec. 22, Madam Justice Sheila Ray of the Ontario Court of Justice stayed aggravated assault and weapons charges against the student, who is now 17, citing "misleading" and "embellished" accounts by the police officer investigating the incident.
Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino has ordered an investigation into the case, and the Toronto District School Board is expected to announce today whether the student will be readmitted to a regular public school to finish her schooling and have the expulsion wiped from her school record.
Under Ontario's Safe Schools Act, students who have been expelled from public school may carry on studying at a special "strict-discipline" school paid for by Queen's Park in the hopes of returning to the regular system. If they oppose the expulsion, however, their academic status is placed in limbo and they're not eligible for the special program.
Rochman's client passed Grade 10 last year in the program, called the Strict Discipline Demonstration Project, which she described as essentially a supervised correspondence course above a downtown restaurant.
The program, in its third year as a province-run pilot project, is meant to help expelled students avoid a one-way ticket to a dead end, said Bruce Cameron, central co-ordinating principal of school services for the Toronto public board.
Cameron would not comment on this case but said "if there was a clear sense there had been a miscarriage along the line, there would certainly be a willingness to take measures to try and deal with that."
Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino has ordered an investigation into the conduct of an officer whose admittedly "lousy" investigation led to a teenage girl wrongly spending two weeks in jail.
And Patrick Rutledge, a trustee with the Toronto District School Board, which expelled the teenager solely on the strength of the officer's allegations against her, has asked the board to "act quickly" in reviewing her expulsion.
The moves follow a story by The Globe and Mail last week which detailed the stinging decision of an Ontario Court judge who concluded the officer, Detective-Constable Marc Beausoleil, had both bungled the original investigation of the incident and then misled the court.
Just before Christmas, Madam Justice Sheila Ray stayed the charges against the girl, and was sharply critical of Detective-Constable Beausoleil for his "cavalier attitude toward the liberty" of the girl, as well as for the "serious injustice" which took place because of his shoddy investigation.
The girl, who turned 17 last Friday and cannot be identified under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was one of five teenagers arrested after a fight near her west-end high school.
It occurred last Feb. 4. In his synopsis, Detective-Constable Beausoleil inaccurately portrayed the girl as the instigator of the fight -- one of 13 significant errors he admitted the 10-paragraph-long document contained.
As a result, she was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and two weapons-related offences.
But where three girls were released at the police station and a fourth held overnight pending a bail hearing, the girl in question was kept in custody -- because of Detective-Constable Beausoleil's misleading synopsis -- for 13 nights until her lawyer, Paula Rochman, persuaded another judge to release her.
She was held in the youth wing of the Vanier Centre for Women in Brampton, was strip-searched before and after every court appearance, and was so distressed by the experience that Ms. Rochman and a guidance counsellor at her school were worried she might not survive her incarceration.
The girl had never been in trouble with the law and comes from a family with a mother that Judge Ray described as "remarkable." The teenager, an oldest child, was a responsible caregiver to her siblings, the court found.
Though she was also a good and responsible student -- one of those "who always shone," according to the guidance counsellor -- the school board invoked its zero-tolerance "safe school policy" and immediately expelled her.
She has spent the past school year at a tough-discipline school, where the emphasis is on prompt attendance and where students take their lessons by correspondence.
The girl who had been held overnight was arrested while her father was walking her to school one morning, The Globe has learned, by Detective-Constable Beausoleil and another officer, both of them in plainclothes. Her father, not believing the two were police officers, tried to protect his daughter, and was later criminally charged with assaulting police.
The girl was later acquitted of one charge, and the others had been withdrawn.
Yesterday, Ms. Rochman wrote to both Chief Fantino and Sheila Ward, chair of the school board, demanding an investigation and that her young client be immediately allowed to return to a regular school and any mention of the expulsion erased from her school records.
But even before Ms. Rochman sent her letter, Chief Fantino told The Globe yesterday morning that, "On basis of the information provided to me, I've directed Internal Affairs to carry out an . . . investigation." Mr. Rutledge, the trustee, also wrote the board before Ms. Rochman sent her letter to Ms. Ward.
The lawyer is concerned not only with her client's situation, but also with the policy that sees students who are merely accused subject to such "drastic punishment." Ms. Rochman said that though the girl protested her innocence throughout, and denied the allegations, the board policy is such that a student who asserts innocence is out of school pending a hearing, which could take months.
"What kind of fairness is that?" Ms. Rochman asked. "And what kind of fairness has been done in this case when the very same information relied on to expel [the girl] comes from an officer who misled a court?"
Ironically, Ms. Rochman noted in her letter, the girl's mother is an experienced teacher with the Toronto board. "I am sure no one appreciates more than her the importance of a safe school environment for our children. But something went fundamentally wrong here."
The board, she said, has "an obligation to review what happened and to ensure it never happens again."
A lawyer has called for an outside police investigation into the case of a 16-year-old girl who was denied bail and jailed for two weeks after a Toronto officer gave a court a misleading account of a fight.
Toronto criminal lawyer Paula Rochman is asking Chief Julian Fantino to have an independent police force investigate whether the officer involved should be charged with perjury or obstructing justice.
In a letter sent to the chief yesterday, Rochman also asked that the Toronto Police Service's professional standards unit look into the matter and that the officer's immediate supervisor be informed of the facts so he can take appropriate action.
Constable Mike Hayles, a Toronto police spokesperson, said yesterday that Fantino had already asked the professional standards unit to look into the case to see how accurately a court assessed the situation in a recent decision.
In a ruling on Dec. 22, Madam Justice Sheila Ray of the Ontario Court of Justice stayed aggravated assault and weapons charges against the teen, finding that her Charter rights were violated when she was detained on the basis of a "misleading" and "embellished" account of the crime provided by the officer in charge of the case.
Detective Constable Marc Beausoleil's "sloppy" investigation and poor record-keeping, Ray said, produced an unfair, unbalanced synopsis of the crime, which led a court to wrongly conclude that the 16-year-old was the ringleader of a brutal, premeditated attack on another girl across the street from Oakwood Collegiate Institute last Feb. 4.
The officer himself conceded that his investigation was "lousy," the judge added, noting the synopsis contained 13 errors or inaccurate suggestions, including:
The fight was the result of a long-simmering feud, and the 16-year-old led the victim to the crime scene and hit her with a metal pipe.
The victim was left with a broken nose requiring surgery.
A mob of 20 to 30 other people was also armed with metal pipes used in the attack.
In an interview, Rochman said as far as she knows, there has been no other case in which a court has been asked to remedy a situation where an accused person was denied bail on the basis of unreasonable or misleading information. But what happened to her client isn't an isolated incident, she added.
In fact, speakers at a recent conference held by Ontario's Criminal Lawyers' Association suggested that misleading police reports could be contributing to the growing number of people held in pretrial custody. There are now more inmates in Ontario jails awaiting trial than serving sentences; 62.7% are charged but not convicted.
Rochman's client, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, spent two weeks in custody at the Vanier Centre for Women and was released after a bail review. Three other youths arrested in the incident were released from the police station and a fourth was set free after a bail hearing.
TORONTO -- A Toronto police officer whose shoddy and misleading investigation of a youth fight saw a 16-year-old girl wrongly spend two weeks in jail and expelled from her high school has been blasted by a judge for the "serious injustice" done to the teenager.
Worse, Madam Justice Sheila Ray of the Ontario Court said in a Dec. 22 judgment in which she stayed the charges against the girl, Detective Constable Marc Beausoleil showed both in his original probe of the incident and in his evidence "a cavalier attitude towards the liberty" of the teenager.
Based solely upon the officer's written synopsis of the fight last Feb. 4, the girl, who can't be identified under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was detained in custody by another judge after her arrest, Judge Ray said.
And that brief, 10-paragraph-long document contained 13 significant errors, Judge Ray found, and gave, in essence, an unfair, unbalanced and "embellished version of the information the police had at the time."
It inaccurately portrayed the girl -- who was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and two weapons-related offences -- as the likely instigator of the fight, suggested "metal pipes" were used, cast the incident as the result of a long-standing feud, and pointed to serious injuries to two of the participants.
And none of that was true, Judge Ray said, noting that, in fact, witnesses had described another girl as the instigator, that the injuries were much less serious than described, and that police seized only one pipe.
Yet because of the way Det. Constable Beausoleil described both the fight and the girl's purported role in it, she was the only one of five young women who were charged to be detained.
Three others who were arrested were released directly from the police station, with a fourth being released at a bail hearing the next day.
The judge appeared almost bewildered by Det. Constable Beausoleil's testimony, variously describing him as "cavalier, defensive" and not showing "complete candour before the court on some issues," and noting that on some points "he chose to change his story again and again and contradict himself."
Det. Constable Beausoleill himself admitted his investigation was "lousy."
The judge fairly said that at an early stage in a complex investigation, especially with unco-operative witnesses, it is understandable if police sometimes either don't have all the information or make mistakes in their synopsis of events.
"There would have been nothing wrong with him telling the court that later on in the investigation, he found out he was wrong and he felt badly about it and thought afterwards that she [the teenager] should have been released," Judge Ray said. "But whatever has gone wrong in an investigation, there is no excuse for lack of candour with the court. The best thing to do when there has been a poor investigation is for an officer to be straightforward about it."
But the quality of Det. Constable Beausoleil's investigation, she said, coupled with "the number of issues he was uncertain about and contradicted himself on, plus his lack of candour" rendered his testimony "highly problematic."
The girl spent two weeks in the youth wing of the Vanier Centre for Women in Brampton with a mentally ill cellmate who appeared to have an eating disorder and who was frequently vomiting.
She was so devastated by being in jail that both a teacher and guidance counsellor at her school, and her lawyer, Paula Rochman, were seriously concerned about her.
Ms. Rochman saw her for the first time at a routine court appearance during her incarceration and found the girl simply shattered. "She kept saying, 'I am not going to make it in here,' " Ms. Rochman told The Globe and Mail yesterday. "I was really afraid she might be suicidal."
The girl was particularly humiliated by the routine strip searches that followed her court appearances. Ms. Rochman has a daughter the same age, and knows all too well the extraordinary modesty young girls often have about their bodies. "That just destroyed her," she said yesterday.
The ordeal was also excruciating for the teen's family, Ms. Rochman said.
The mother, described by Judge Ray as a "remarkable" woman, is a hard-working single mom who has brought up her children to respect the law. The girl is not only the oldest child, but a responsible caregiver for her younger brothers, and seeing their big sister taken away in handcuffs from the family home was particularly crushing to them.
The girl's mother is so responsible that when police first contacted her and said they wanted to speak to the girl and asked the mom to call them, and the woman found her telephone temporarily out of order, she bundled her daughter and the younger children in the car and actually began driving to the police station, stopping at a pay phone to tell the police she was en route.
As Judge Ray noted, the mother "would have provided excellent supervision" and was "ready, willing and able to do so" had the girl been released on bail. But Det. Constable Beausoleil "sought her detention," and the Crown attorney, armed with only the officer's "highly misleading" synopsis, concurred.
The judge found no intention to mislead the court on the part of the Crown.
With the girl facing the charges and in custody, Det. Constable Beausoleil, Ms. Rochman said yesterday, then visited her school to complain that a teacher and high-school guidance counsellor had testified in her support at a bail review hearing.
The school invoked the Toronto District School Board's "safe schools policy" and expelled the girl, although Ms. Rochman fought unsuccessfully to have the suspension made only temporary.
As a result, the teenager, described by the guidance counsellor as "always one of the students who shone" and "university-bound," spent the past year, Grade 10, at a special tough-discipline school where the student body is predominantly male, and where students essentially report for class and then do their classes by correspondence.
Her status is to be reassessed next week.
Det. Constable Beausoleil, a 14-year veteran officer who is now with the intelligence section, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
But Ms. Rochman will write to Police Chief Julian Fantino and the Crown attorney's office on Monday to ask that the officer be investigated for obstructing justice.