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Lawyer assaulted by cop finds ‘troubling’ attitude by police

|Written By Yamri Taddese

A week after an Ontario Court judge found her former boyfriend guilty of assaulting her, Toronto criminal defence lawyer Kathryn Wells says the way the police community treats domestic violence is “troubling” when the accused is also an officer.

“Being involved in a case where the accused is a police officer [was] interesting,” says Wells following the finding of guilt on Jan. 11 against her ex-partner, Toronto police officer Jason Peacock. The court found Peacock guilty of one count of assault and another of mischief.

On Feb. 1, a separate but related matter will be in court involving charges against Peacock for failure to comply with conditions barring him from communicating with Wells directly or indirectly. One of the charges accuses Peacock of “compelling Kathryn Wells to provide police with a new statement . . . which would nullify the charges, contrary to the Criminal Code.”

According to a report in the Toronto Star on the assault case, Wells described a confrontation on Christmas Eve in 2010 during which Peacock began to smash wine glasses, damaged her kitchen, and knocked holes in her wall after she told him to leave her apartment. The incident caused damages of $4,000.

Wells also said Peacock shook her violently by the shoulders, according to the Star. The 40-year-old officer is awaiting his sentencing proceedings on March 15.

Speaking about the case, Wells tells Law Times she was disappointed that the police community stood behind Peacock.

“Setting aside the investigators directly involved in this case, who were fabulous, given that the police association funded [Peacock’s] defence . . . to me that sends a message that I’m not sure if they doubted me,” she says.

“I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a lawyer, and a criminal lawyer at that or because I’m a woman.”

Wells notes she was upset that “a very senior police officer” gave testimony on Peacock’s good character.

“That was somewhat troubling,” she says.

“The inspector came in and said, ‘He’s great, he’s wonderful, he’s composed.’ This inspector never bothered to look at the evidence in the case. It’s somewhat troubling in terms of the way the broader police community views domestic violence when it’s a police officer accused.”

Wells adds that being on the other side of a criminal case has also made her better appreciate the position of victims and witnesses. “I’ve definitely seen the justice system from a different vantage point. It’s not easy to have your personal life under a microscope, you know, in court.

“I know that I’ve always had empathy for people who’ve gone through hard times and are victims of one thing or another but I do see things somewhat differently. I think I understand a little bit more clearly what people don’t understand.”

“It’s very difficult when you’re in that setting,” she adds, noting there was also the issue that she works in the courthouse and knows many people there.

For his part, Peacock described Wells as hysterical on the night of the confrontation and said that as a police officer, he felt it wouldn’t be safe to leave her alone in the apartment, the Star reported. He denied shaking her violently by the shoulders.

For victims of domestic violence, navigating the justice system can be an arduous process, says Wells.

“You know, here I am not only a lawyer but a defence lawyer, so I know the law, I’m educated, I’ve got great family support, and it was still difficult,” she says. “So I understand how hard it must be for all of those women who . . . you know, you don’t understand the system, you don’t have the support and the community. It’s a very difficult process.”

  • Nc
    If anyone out there has had this lady intervene in any incident that was non of her business, let me know. I'm wondering if you had such a bizarre experience as the one that occurred with us? It seems like she's troubled! Boy, I'm glad we are protected by free speech !
  • AS
    Members of a profession supporting each other, whether through funding of defence or providing character references, is completely unremarkable. How many lawyers have been asked to write a character reference for another lawyer on the wrong end of a family dispute or roadside screening device? Happens all the time. Doesn't mean the profession is closing ranks against the complainant. We have lawyers testifying at the credentials hearings of a plagiarizer that he or she will still make a good lawyer. Troubling?

    A defence lawyer should also know that it's not the inspector's job to look at the evidence. It's the investigator(s) job to gather evidence, which obviously they did, and the Crown's job to look at it.
  • frank galvin
    Shouldn't citizens be able to call another police force if the local force is not sufficiently professional or impartial?
  • MF
    Police officers are required to pay union dues - a portion of which is attributed to a fund for legal fees for officers who face charges in connection with their duties as police officers. Deciding which officer's legal fees are paid is a closed door process, and the rank and file members are not consulted. However, it is understood that the fund has a discreet purpose and the Toronto Police Association does not typically fund an officer's defence when he or she is charged in an off-duty capacity. Why it was done in this case is a mystery and should be cause for concern.

    In this case, the Inspector testified to the effect that even if the accused in this case was indeed guilty of the domestic allegations, he would still have no concerns about his character or his abilities as an officer. That is indeed troubling.
  • SS
    What kind of defence lawyer is "troubled" by someone giving good character evidence for the accused? Just because someone commits a criminal offence, it doesn't mean there's no longer and never was anything good about them.

    Also, the Police Association funds defences all the time - not just when the accused is a female criminal defence lawyer. It's a bit disingenuous to imply that the victim's gender or profession were responsible for that decision.
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