SIU Director’s Report - Case # 21-POD-164


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Mandate of the SIU

The Special Investigations Unit is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving an official where there has been death, serious injury, the discharge of a firearm at a person or an allegation of sexual assault. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019 (SIU Act), officials are defined as police officers, special constables of the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers under the Legislative Assembly Act. The SIU’s jurisdiction covers more than 50 municipal, regional and provincial police services across Ontario.

Under the SIU Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence was committed. If such grounds exist, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the official. Alternatively, in cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director cannot lay charges. Where no charges are laid, a report of the investigation is prepared and released publicly, except in the case of reports dealing with allegations of sexual assault, in which case the SIU Director may consult with the affected person and exercise a discretion to not publicly release the report having regard to the affected person’s privacy interests.

Information Restrictions

Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019

Pursuant to section 34, certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following: 
  • The name of, and any information identifying, a subject official, witness official, civilian witness or affected person. 
  • Information that may result in the identity of a person who reported that they were sexually assaulted being revealed in connection with the sexual assault. 
  • Information that, in the opinion of the SIU Director, could lead to a risk of serious harm to a person. 
  • Information that discloses investigative techniques or procedures.  
  • Information, the release of which is prohibited or restricted by law.  
  • Information in which a person’s privacy interest in not having the information published clearly outweighs the public interest in having the information published. 

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Pursuant to section14 (i.e., law enforcement), certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following: 
  • Confidential investigative techniques and procedures used by law enforcement agencies; and 
  • Information that could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter or an investigation undertaken with a view to a law enforcement proceeding. 

Pursuant to section 21 (i.e., personal privacy), protected personal information is not included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following: 
  •  The names of persons, including civilian witnesses, and subject and witness officials; 
  • Location information; 
  • Witness statements and evidence gathered in the course of the investigation provided to the SIU in confidence; and 
  • Other identifiers which are likely to reveal personal information about individuals involved in the investigation. 

Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004

Pursuant to this legislation, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.

Other proceedings, processes, and investigations

Information may also have been excluded from this report because its release could undermine the integrity of other proceedings involving the same incident, such as criminal proceedings, coroner’s inquests, other public proceedings and/or other law enforcement investigations.

Mandate Engaged

Pursuant to section 15 of the SIU Act, the SIU may investigate the conduct of officials, be they police officers, special constables of the Niagara Parks Commission or peace officers under the Legislative Assembly Act, that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault or the discharge of a firearm at a person.

A person sustains a “serious injury” for purposes of the SIU’s jurisdiction if they: sustain an injury as a result of which they are admitted to hospital; suffer a fracture to the skull, or to a limb, rib or vertebra; suffer burns to a significant proportion of their body; lose any portion of their body; or, as a result of an injury, experience a loss of vision or hearing.

In addition, a “serious injury” means any other injury sustained by a person that is likely to interfere with the person’s health or comfort and is not transient or trifling in nature.

This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into the death of 35-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On May 25, 2021 at 11:50 a.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that on May 24, 2021, at about 4:20 p.m., police officers responded to a domestic call at the Comfort Inn in Port Hope. OPP officers had interactions at a room with the Complainant. The Complainant was known to the police. The OPP officers removed a female from the hotel and took her to the hospital for treatment of injuries.

Sometime later, OPP officers and Port Hope Police Service (PHPS) officers returned to the Comfort Inn to arrest the Complainant. Officers knocked on the Complainant’s room door but did not get a response. Police officers returned again sometime later but did not locate the Complainant.

On May 25, 2021 at 9:00 a.m., OPP officers attended the hotel but there was no answer at the Complainant’s room.

At 9:25 a.m., officers attended the Complainant’s workplace, but he was not there.

At 9:45 a.m., officers entered the Complainant’s room and found him hanging in the shower. The Complainant was pronounced dead.

The Team

Date and time team dispatched: 05/25/2021 at 12:55 p.m.

Date and time SIU arrived on scene: 05/25/2021 at 1:25 p.m.

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 6
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1

Affected Person (aka “Complainant”):

35-year-old male, deceased

Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Not interviewed (health reasons)

The civilian witnesses were interviewed between May 28, 2021, and May 31, 2021.

Subject Officials

SO #1 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
SO #2 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed

The subject officials were interviewed between May 31, 2021, and August 6, 2021.

Witness Officials

WO Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed


Materials Obtained from Police Service

The SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from the OPP:
• Email from OPP-contact information for CW #3;
• Event Details (x2);
• Interview Summary-CW #4; and
• Notes of SOs and WO.

Incident Narrative

The following scenario emerges from the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with both subject officials and a review of the statement provided to the OPP by a civilian witness – the Complainant’s estranged girlfriend – CW #4.

CW #4 was in an abusive relationship with the Complainant. Following a series of messages he left for CW #4, in which he professed his love for her, she joined the Complainant on May 23, 2021 at a room he was staying in at the Comfort Inn, Port Hope. The Complainant proceeded to repeatedly beat and sexually assault CW #4. He threatened to take his own life, and hers too, and would not permit her to leave. On May 24, 2021, CW #4 managed to surreptitiously reach her family and report her predicament. They contacted the police.

SO #1 and the WO arrived at the scene at about 4:30 p.m. They attended at the Complainant’s second room floor, knocked on the door, announced themselves as “police” and asked that the door be opened. The door was opened, and CW #4 ran through the doorway threshold into the hallway, after which the door was quickly shut again. CW #4 was visibly injured; she had bruising on her face and neck. The officers escorted CW #4 away from the room and to the lobby, where arrangements were made to have her taken to hospital.

SO #2 arrived on scene at about 4:45 p.m. Accompanied by SO #1 and the WO, and another officer, they went to the Complainant’s room seeking to arrest him. Despite their knocks and their requests that the Complainant come out, no one answered the door. Believing the Complainant had left the room, the officers returned to the Comfort Inn parking lot, where SO #1 attempted to contact the Complainant via mobile phone numbers they had for him. No one answered.

The officers made their way to the detachment. Before reporting off-duty at 10:00 p.m., SO #2 made arrangements to have the PHPS check the Complainant’s room again overnight. At about 11:18 p.m., two PHPS officers attended at the Complainant’s room. Once again, no one answered the door.

The following morning, on SO #2’s return to work, officers attempted to locate the Complainant at his workplace. Upon learning from the Complainant’s employer that he had not showed up for work that day, SO #2 and other officers attended once again at his second floor room. Provided a key by the Comfort Inn, officers opened the Complainant’s room. He was located deceased in the bathroom hanging from a bedsheet attached to the shower rod.

Relevant Legislation

Section 219, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing death

219 (1) Every one is criminally negligent who
(a) in doing anything, or
(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

(2) For the purposes of this section, duty means a duty imposed by law.

Section 220, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing death or bodily harm

220 Every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable

(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

Section 215, Criminal Code - Failure to Provide Necessaries

215 (1) Every one is under a legal duty

(c) to provide necessaries of life to a person under his charge if that person
(i) is unable, by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge, and
(ii) is unable to provide himself with necessaries of life.

(2) Every person commits an offence who, being under a legal duty within the meaning of subsection (1), fails without lawful excuse to perform that duty, if
(b) with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(c), the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant was found deceased on May 25, 2021 in a room of the Comfort Inn, Port Hope. He had taken his own life. As OPP officers had discovered his body, and had interacted with him the day before, the SIU was notified and initiated an investigation. SO #1 and SO #2 were identified as subject officials. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that either subject official committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

The offences that arise for consideration are failure to provide the necessaries of life and criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 215 and 220 of the Criminal Code, respectively. The former is premised, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. The latter is reserved for more serious case of neglect, namely, those demonstrating a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons. Not only must the impugned behaviour constitute a marked departure from a reasonable level of care, it must also fall substantially short of that standard. In the instant case, the issue is whether the subject officials fell short in their duty of care toward the Complainant and, if so, whether their lack of care contributed to the Complainant’s death and/or was egregious enough to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there is insufficient evidence to ground liability along these lines of inquiry.

I accept that there were grounds for the Complainant’s arrest the moment the OPP received word from CW #4’s family on May 24, 2021 that she was being held hostage by the Complainant. It is also evident that the Complainant would not have killed himself when he did if he had been arrested when the officers first attended at the Comfort Inn to rescue CW #4. That said, the Complainant’s arrest at that time was not a straightforward proposition.

The officers who attended at the Comfort Inn on May 24, 2021 had reason to believe that the room essentially constituted the Complainant’s “dwelling-house”. As such, pursuant to the law articulated in R v Feeney, [1997] 2 SCR 13, and codified in sections 529 to 529.4 of the Criminal Code, they correctly understood the need for judicial pre-authorization before forcibly entering the room to effect what would otherwise have been a lawful arrest. As the officers explained, they were of the view that the grounds for such a warrant were unavailable as they could not vouch for the fact that the Complainant was still in the room; some time had passed with the room unmonitored between the time CW #4 exited and was taken to the lobby, and SO #2 (and other officers) returned and knocked on the door. The officers’ apprehensions were not unfounded. Moreover, they would not have known at the time that the Complainant was suicidal, which knowledge might have pushed them to attempt to secure a warrant or enter the room based on exigent circumstances.

Nor am I satisfied that the officers transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law when they failed to force entry into the Complainant’s room after they interviewed CW #4 By that time, SO #1 had learned from CW #4 that the Complainant had repeatedly threatened to kill himself as he kept her confined in the room. Arguably, the officer ought to have taken action based on this information to seek a Feeney warrant or press the case for entry based on exigent circumstances. Be that as it may, I am unable to reasonably characterize SO #1’s failure to do so as a marked departure from a reasonable level of care, much less a marked and substantial departure. CW #4 had made clear in her interview that she believed the Complainant’s threats were “empty threats” meant to manipulate her, rather than genuine expressions of an intention to self-harm. It seems SO #1 adopted CW #4’s perspective on the matter. Moreover, given the real possibility that the Complainant had fled the room during the time it was left unmonitored following CW #4’s rescue, there remained an element of doubt that a Feeney warrant would be forthcoming or that a forced entry in the absence of a warrant would be lawful. Finally, it is not that the police service did nothing after CW #4’s interview. SO #2 ensured that officers followed-up later that night with a subsequent attempt to reach the Complainant in his room, which occurred at about 11:18 p.m. And the SO #2 led police efforts the following morning to apprehend the Complainant at his place of employment, thereafter entering the Complainant’s room with the assistance of Comfort Inn staff.

On the aforementioned-record, while it may be that the subject officials might have done more to take the Complainant into custody prior to locating him deceased in his Comfort Inn room, I am not satisfied that any such shortcomings were of a magnitude sufficient to attract criminal sanction. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.

Date: September 22, 2021

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Special Investigations Unit


The signed English original report is authoritative, and any discrepancy between that report and the French and English online versions should be resolved in favour of the original English report.