Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crown won't pursue detective for 'reckless' affidavit

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A Winnipeg police officer will not face any legal sanctions despite being found to have committed judicial misconduct in a high-profile rape case that crumbled in court.

Justice officials confirmed Wednesday they are not seeking a criminal review of Det. Richard Arndt despite the findings of a Manitoba judge.

"Given the facts of this case, the Crown is not referring the case for investigation against the officer," a provincial spokeswoman told the Free Press. No further details were provided.

The Crown also said it will not appeal the decision of provincial court Judge Robert Heinrichs, who slammed Arndt's conduct in a ruling on a pre-trial motion last month. The ruling resulted in a search warrant being tossed and left the Crown with no evidence against the accused, Marcus Baird. The charges were stayed and Baird went free. Baird had been charged with breaking into two homes and raping two young women who were strangers to him.

"This court has found that there was reckless disregard for the truth in Detective Arndt's sworn application. The inaccuracies, misstatements, embellishments and exaggerations are such that they permeate the entirety of the document," Heinrichs wrote in his decision. The judge found Arndt deliberately committed several Charter of Rights and Freedoms breaches. Specifically, he ruled Arndt deliberately withheld certain information and exaggerated other details to persuade a magistrate to issue the search warrant, vital in the Baird investigation. The result made the police case look much stronger than it was, Heinrichs said.

The Crown conceded Arndt made numerous factual errors in his information to obtain the search warrant but claimed they were all "honest mistakes" that should be overlooked.

It appears the Crown is now adopting the same approach in not investigating Arndt further.

George van Mackelbergh, the vice-president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said the case shows how careful officers must be in their investigations.

"The judicial system is a process. It has many checks and balances," Van Mackelbergh said Wednesday.

A Winnipeg police spokesman told the Free Press they are reviewing the case, along with the Crown, to see whether improvements can be made to avoid a similar occurrence.

There have been a handful of examples locally where police officers have been charged for allegedly providing bogus information to a magistrate.

Constables Jess Zebrun and Peter O'Kane were cleared of perjury in a controversial February 2011 decision, which the Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned months later. The Crown ultimately dropped the case without having a second trial when O'Kane died in an off-duty accident in 2012.

There were substantial differences in that case, however. Zebrun and O'Kane were accused of improperly searching a downtown hotel room where they spotted a kilogram of cocaine and $18,000 cash in 2005. They were then alleged to have lied to a magistrate to get a search warrant, which they used to enter the Fairmont hotel room and make the seizure.

When they testified at the accused drug dealer's preliminary hearing, O'Kane and Zebrun claimed their suspicions about the hotel room weren't based on an illegal sneak-and-peek, but rather on the information of a mysterious informant. The Crown ultimately stayed drug-trafficking charges against the suspect and an accomplice.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2014 A3

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