By Gerald V. Paul
Outgoing Special investigations Unit (SIU) Director Ian Scott is calling for the agency to be made an independent office of the Legislature, free from Government interference.
The SIU is the body that investigates altercations between the police and civilians in the province of Ontario.
“It is clear from my experience that this working relationship can be the subject of interference and can undermine the independence necessary to [assure] the public that the Unit effectively operates at an arm’s length from Government,” Scott noted in the article.
In a paper to be published in the Criminal Law Quarterly, Scott recommended the change because currently the SIU is a branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General, which has allowed officials to muzzle its Director when he criticizes police.
Scott is also calling for the Government to ban police from having lawyers vet their notes before turning them over to the SIU and stopping lawyers from attending SIU interviews with police witnesses.
He asked for new legislation to clearly define when the SIU can invoke its mandate. The SIU becomes involved when someone dies or is seriously injured in police custody, but there is no single definition of “serious injury.” The SIU uses one definition; some police forces use their own.
In 2009, for instance, the Ministry delayed the publication of a report in which Scott outlined allegations of police not co-operating with the SIU. On another occasion, in 2010, a high-ranking bureaucrat privately rebuked Scott for publicizing a situation in which an officer’s notes were vetted by a lawyer before they were turned over to the SIU investigators.