Editorial: Defence lawyers’ outrage justified

Lawyers are rightfully expressing outrage over the circumstances surrounding the arrest of defence counsel Laura Liscio at the courthouse in Brampton, Ont., this month.

Since the Feb. 12 arrest, Peel Regional Police have only continued to make matters worse. While they had subsequently issued a press release denying reports that officers had handcuffed Liscio in her court attire and later escorted her to a marked police cruiser, they had to backtrack on those comments last week. “It has subsequently been determined that the information that was originally relied upon was in fact incorrect,” police said in a new press release on Wednesday. “Peel Regional Police sincerely regrets publishing the misinformation and the impact that it has had on members of the community, members of the media, and Ms. Liscio.”

In the new press release, police admitted to handcuffing Liscio in her court attire and that both uniformed and plainclothes officers had escorted her to the marked cruiser.

The problems, it seems, keep piling up in this case. While Liscio obviously remains innocent until proven guilty on the drug and other charges she’s facing, lawyers have been right to question the manner of her arrest. “The police have broad powers to effect an arrest which includes offering a suspect to attend at a police station so the individual is provided with a degree of privacy and dignity,” said Toronto Lawyers Association president Joseph Neuberger last week. What’s more, we should obviously be able to rely on police to be forthright and accurate in what they tell the public. Questions about officer credibility and honesty are an issue in lots of cases, of course, but it’s rare to see police have to backtrack about such basic facts that don’t even relate to the criminal allegations at hand. There are already enough issues when it comes to trust in the police, and situations like this one only make it worse. In Liscio’s case, we probably only know about the problems in part because of the public manner of her arrest but also because of the position she holds and her support from the legal community.

There are lots of facts still to come out in this case, but it’s already clear police have made significant mistakes.
The case is a good example of why people are right to question officers’ actions when it’s so obvious they’re serving their own interests.

For more, see "Should lawyers deliver clothes to clients?"
Glenn Kauth

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