Cops Who Assaulted Elder Get to Investigate Themselves
May 30, 2005
Press Release - For Immediate Release, May 30, 2005
Crown Blocks Prosecution of Police Officers,
But Senior Citizen Victim Not Giving Up
VANCOUVER - Crown Prosecutor Terry Shultes has given no reason for halting a criminal prosecution against two city police officers charged with assaulting a senior citizen. The decision was made in spite of an earlier ruling by a Provincial Court Judge that there was sufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges. Despite the setback, Robert Woodward, the 71-year old victim of the police assault, is not giving up on his quest for justice.
What made this case special is that a private citizen began the prosecution, rather than the Crown, and received judicial approval to do so. Under the Criminal Code, individual citizens can initiate criminal proceedings without the assistance of either the police or the Crown. Howard Rubin, a former Crown prosecutor, took up Woodward's case on the request of Pivot Legal Society, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of marginalized persons.
The private prosecution stemmed from an incident on September 4, 2004. Robert Woodward, a senior citizen from Surrey who collects toys to give to women's shelters in the Downtown Eastside, was in his car taking Tylenol 3. Woodward has a subscription for the pills because of chronic pain, due to an industrial accident that paralyzed him for 12 years.
"I had put the Tylenols in my mouth when someone grabbed my throat and shoulder and literally dragged me out of the car," said Woodward. "There were two officers. One slammed me into a wall face first, and yelled 'Spit it out!' When I spit out the pills, my teeth came out as well." Woodward suffered serious cuts to his left hand and right shoulder, and his stomach started to bleed from old injuries that split open.
Lawyer Howard Rubin requested that an outside, objective police agency be brought in to conduct the investigation. However, Crown Counsel refused, and instead asked the Vancouver Police Department conduct its own investigation against the officers. Crown Counsel has not disclosed the results of that investigation to Mr. Woodward or his lawyer, nor has it released the reasons for its decision to halt the prosecution.
Woodward isn't waiting to find out, however. He has started a petition, gathering signatures from people opposed to police investigating themselves. Woodward plans to present the petition to the Vancouver Police Board, and ask them to support external investigations. "It's ridiculous that they are going to let the police decide for themselves if they assaulted me or not" said Woodward. "They took on the wrong man, if they think I'm going to let them get away with that."
Woodward has already gathered more than 100 signatures from people opposed to police investigating themselves.
About Pivot Legal Society
Founded in 2000, Pivot Legal Society is a non-profit organization and leading advocate for marginalized people such as drug users, sex workers, and homeless people. Pivot's mandate is to advance the interests of marginalized persons through the use of law reform, legal education and strategic legal action.