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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ontario appointing Crown in Fantino prosecution

Source: The Spec
OPP boss has yet to receive summons
January 12, 2010

With files from wire services
The Hamilton Spectator(Jan 12, 2010)
Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino had not yet received formal notice by end of business yesterday after a summons was issued alleging he illegally influenced elected officials in Haldimand County over the ongoing native dispute in Caledonia.

"The commissioner hasn't been served with anything yet," said OPP spokesperson Dave Ross.

"All we've been told at this point is a process is issued," Ross said.

On Friday, the ministry of the attorney general confirmed that a justice of the peace "issued process" against Fantino on one count of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials.

Issuing process is a legal step required before charges are officially laid and court dates set.

The case results from the launch of a private prosecution by activist Gary McHale, who pressed to have Fantino charged after the commissioner sent an April 2007 email allegedly telling the mayor and councillors in Caledonia not to attend McHale's rallies.

McHale led a number of rallies to protest what he called two-tier justice in the policing of the Caledonia occupation.

The summons came after a Dec. 31 Ontario Superior court order demanding a formal charge be laid.

Next, the ministry must decide whether to prosecute the charge, stay the case or drop it.

McHale says he wants an out-of-province prosecutor if the case proceeds. But McHale says he received a letter from the attorney general's ministry informing him that because Fantino is a police officer, the case will be assigned to a Crown within the justice prosecutions unit, a division formed to prosecute criminal cases where the accused is someone involved in the justice system.

Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney-General, said Monday that a Crown who has no previous experience of Fantino will be assigned to the case.

The OPP issued a written statement on behalf of Fantino during the weekend saying the commissioner intends to strongly defend himself against the charge.

In the weekend statement, Fantino also defended police efforts to keep the peace and protect the public in Caledonia during the land claims dispute.

"I am proud of the work that the men and women of the OPP have done in Caledonia over the years in a complex and, at times, extremely volatile environment," it said.

"The OPP and its officers have taken a measured approach and acted in accordance with legislated responsibilities and exercised police discretion appropriately, fairly and equally," the statement said.

Fantino, whose tenure at the OPP has at times been controversial, has been at the helm of the police force since 2006.

Last June, the province extended Fantino's term through July 2010, saying he needed to stay as commissioner past the October 2009 end date of his appointment so he could oversee the G8 Summit in Huntsville this summer.

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