Rarotonga, 2010

Simon's Megalomaniacal Legal Resources


ADMINISTRATIVE LAW | SPPA / Fairness (Administrative)

home / about / Democracy, Law and Duty / testimonials / Conditions of Use

Civil and Administrative
Litigation Opinions
for Self-Reppers

Simon's Favourite Charity -
Little Friends Lefkada (Greece)
Cat and Dog Rescue


Police - Police and Crown Attorneys

. Rossi v. OIPRD

In Rossi v. OIPRD (Div Court, 2024) the Divisional Court dismissed a JR challenging an OIPRD decision which upheld the dismissal of a police chief against their officers.

The court locates the duty to provide evidence disclosure to a defendant on the Crown, as supervised by the court - not on the police:
Complaint #2: Police Disclosure Obligations

[30] The Applicant was charged with criminal harassment in connection with a separate incident. That charge was ultimately withdrawn by the Crown.

[31] The Applicant complains that police failed to meet their disclosure obligations to him, as an accused person in a criminal case. Disclosure was, he says, too slow, incomplete, and failed to meet the standards expected of police officers.

[32] The Respondent found that the obligation to make disclosure in a criminal case belongs to the Crown. Supervision of the performance of that obligation is in the jurisdiction of the criminal court in which the prosecution is taking place. Failures in the process of disclosure (substantive, temporal, or procedural) are generally matters for the criminal courts to address and would ordinarily not be a proper subject for disciplinary proceedings unless pursued on the basis of concerns raised by the Crown or findings in the criminal proceedings: absent those circumstances, the disclosure responsibility rests on the Crown and failures to meet that responsibility are addressed by the criminal courts. The Respondent’s conclusion on this issue is reasonable.
. Ontario (Attorney General) v. Clark

In Ontario (Attorney General) v. Clark (SCC, 2021) the Supreme Court of Canada maintains prosecutorial immunity in a unique case where several Toronto police officers sued the Ontario Crown for 'misfeasance in public office' (negligence was dismissed in a lower court). The court essentially denied the possibility of Crown Attorney liability for the reason that it would give the police such influence in prosecutorial discretion, and all the bias that would create in criminal cases down the road:
[40] The question before us, then, in light of the accused-centered policy thread woven through the authorities, is whether we should further encroach on prosecutorial immunity to allow police officers to sue the Crown in misfeasance for decisions prosecutors make in the course of criminal proceedings. In my view, allowing police officers to initiate such causes of action would raise profound risks to the rights of the accused and to prosecutorial independence and objectivity, and it would undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system.

[41] One of the critical dimensions of a prosecutor’s independence that is protected by immunity is, in fact, independence from the police. The police role is to investigate crime. The Crown prosecutor’s role, on the other hand, is to assess whether a prosecution is in the public interest and, if so, to carry out that prosecution in accordance with the prosecutor’s duties to the administration of justice and the accused. Police and Crown prosecutors are expected to “act according to their distinct roles in the process, investigating allegations of criminal behaviour, and assessing the public interest in prosecuting, respectively” (Regan, at para. 87; see also Smith, at para. 72).

[42] In Regan, this Court emphasized the importance to the administration of justice of prosecutorial independence from the police. The issue in Regan concerned prosecutorial involvement in the pre-charge stage of an investigation. Ultimately, LeBel J. held for the majority that Crown involvement in pre-charge interviews did not constitute a per se abuse of process. He observed, however, that the “need for a separation between police and Crown functions has been reiterated in reports inquiring into miscarriages of justice which have sent innocent men to jail” (para. 66).

[43] Most pertinently, he concluded that “Crown objectivity and the separation of Crown from police functions are elements of the judicial process which must be safeguarded” (para. 70). This sentiment was echoed by Binnie J., when he said:
. . . Crown prosecutors must retain objectivity in their review of charges laid by the police, or their pre-charge involvement, and retain both the substance and appearance of even-handed independence from the police investigative role. This is the Crown Attorney’s “Minister of Justice” function and its high standards are amply supported in the cases. . . . [para. 137, dissenting on other grounds]
[44] The importance of prosecutorial objectivity in the review of charges laid by the police is driven by the fact that “prosecutors provide the initial checks and balances to the power of the police”. They act as a “buffer between the police and the citizen” in deciding how to proceed once a charge has been laid (paras. 159-60, per Binnie J.). Independent prosecutorial review of the police’s investigative process and decisions helps “ensure that both investigations and prosecutions are conducted more thoroughly, and thus more fairly” (para. 160, per Binnie J., quoting the Martin Report, at p. 39).

[45] In R. v. Beaudry, 2007 SCC 5 (CanLII), [2007] 1 S.C.R. 190, the Court made it clear that prosecutorial independence from police is not a one way street. The police “have a particular role to play in the criminal justice system . . . and it is important that they remain independent of the executive branch”. Accordingly, the relationship between prosecutors and the police is not a “hierarchical” one. In discharging their respective duties, both the police and the prosecutor have a “discretion that must be exercised independently of any outside influence” (para. 48). Cooperation is encouraged, but independence is mandatory.

[46] In Smith, Tulloch J.A. characterized the relationship between the prosecutor and the police as one of “mutual independence”, which “provides a safeguard against the misuse of both investigative and prosecutorial powers and can ensure that both investigations and prosecutions are conducted more thoroughly and fairly” (para. 86, citing the Martin Report, at p. 39).

[47] Making prosecutors liable to police officers for misfeasance is fundamentally incompatible with this “mutually independent” relationship. Prosecutors do not owe specific legal duties to the police with respect to how they carry out a prosecution. To use misfeasance to get around this reality would be to permit a police officer to take a prosecutor to court to challenge the prosecutor’s compliance with his or her public duties (Odhavji, at para. 29). Such a relationship of legal accountability between the prosecutor and the police is irreconcilable with their critically “separate and distinct” roles (Smith, at para. 65).

[48] The problem is not merely theoretical. As previously noted, the courts’ increased willingness to take a more active role in scrutinizing decisions of the Attorney General and its agents, including through the exceptions to prosecutorial immunity, has been driven by the realization that failing to provide appropriate checks and balances on Crown conduct, including the relationship with the police, can lead to gross injustices, including wrongful convictions.

[49] We have seen deplorable examples of injustice when the roles are integrated. The Report of the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr. Prosecution concluded that a distinct boundary between the function of the police and the Crown is essential to the proper administration of justice (Regan, at para. 66, citing Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr., Prosecution, vol. 1, Findings and Recommendations (1989), at p. 232). And in the 1998 Report of the Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin, the Commissioner concluded that the Crown’s failure to maintain objectivity throughout the process, which contributed to Morin’s wrongful conviction, was caused in part by too close contact with the police:
The prosecutors showed little or no introspection about these contaminating influences upon witnesses for two reasons: one, the evidence favoured the prosecution; this coloured their objectivity; two, their relationship with the police which, at times, blinded them, and prevented them from objectively and accurately assessing the reliability of the police officers who testified for the prosecution.

(The Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin: Report (1998), vol. 2, at p. 911, cited in Regan, at para. 69.)
[50] This reality was reinforced by the Court of Appeal in this case in its duty of care analysis rejecting the officers’ negligence claim. The court recognized that imposing a duty of care on Crown prosecutors toward investigating police officers could interfere with the prosecutors’ ability to act independently of police interests. It would “encourage Crown attorneys to focus on extraneous factors during the course of a prosecution” and “have a deleterious effect on the administration of justice by undermining the public’s faith in the integrity of independent Crown decision-making” (paras. 87-88).

[51] It would “tend to distort principled decision-making”, which the court explained as follows:
The decision of Crown attorneys to initiate, continue, or terminate a prosecution should be based on whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether the prosecution is in the public interest. The possibility of civil claims by the police would distort these venerable twin duties. It would have a deleterious effect on the administration of justice by undermining the public’s faith in the integrity of independent Crown decision-making. Moreover, exposing Crown attorneys to negligence claims by the police may result in prolonged court proceedings in which Crown attorneys make untenable prosecutorial decisions on Charter motions for fear of being sued. It would encourage the litigation of collateral issues, which does not sit well with the realities of finite criminal justice resources and the pressures of firm constitutional time constraints. [citation omitted; para. 88]
[52] The motions judge similarly recognized the risks to the prosecutors’ integrity and independence if they were exposed to negligence claims from police officers:
An expansion of the responsibilities of Crown Attorneys to include such a duty could result in cases proceeding to trial merely to resolve the concerns of the police. It would alter what should be a co-operative relationship between the police and Crown Attorneys into a potentially adversarial one, in which police would become not just investigators and witnesses, but also litigants with a stake in the outcome, as well as potential claimants against the Crown Attorneys. The potential for conflict and disruption to the relationship is apparent. [para. 135]
[53] These policy concerns are no less critical when considering whether prosecutorial immunity should yield to misfeasance claims against a prosecutor by investigating police officers. Being at risk of civil liability for reputational harm to police officers means considering irrelevant considerations and risking independence and objectivity, the core of the prosecutor’s role. Police suing prosecutors for decisions they make in the course of a criminal prosecution is a recipe for putting prosecutors in conflict with their duty to protect the integrity of the process and the rights of the accused.


[56] Beyond the risk of actual conflict between the prosecutors’ core duties and their risk of liability to the police, the appearance of such a conflict would be equally damaging to the integrity of the administration of justice. As the joint interveners the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel and the Ontario Crown Attorneys’ Association put it, permitting police lawsuits against Crown prosecutors would suggest to the public and to accused persons that police were “policing prosecutions” through the use of private law, imperiling public confidence in the independent and objective ability of prosecutors to conduct fair trials.

[57] This stands in stark contrast to the public interest in making prosecutors accountable for malicious prosecution, such as in Nelles, where Lamer J. recognized that public confidence in the system would be damaged if a prosecutor, “in a position of knowledge in respect of the constitutional and legal impact of his conduct”, were shielded from liability to the accused when he “abuses the process through a malicious prosecution” (p. 195). Here, the public interest argues against, not in favour of piercing prosecutorial immunity.

[58] Claims brought by the police against prosecutors risk not only the independence and objectivity of the prosecutor, but the accused person’s fair trial rights. Those obligations to the accused are jeopardized by accountability to the police whose interests are adverse to those of the accused. As Moldaver J. noted in Henry:
The public interest is undermined when prosecutorial decision-making is influenced by considerations extraneous to the Crown’s role as a quasi-judicial officer. [para. 73]
[59] The police certainly have a legitimate expectation and interest in their reputations not being unfairly impaired. But the solution cannot be to make prosecutors accountable to them in a way that obliterates the independence between the police and prosecutors and is inconsistent with the Crown’s core public duties to the administration of justice and to the accused.

[60] The same holds true for third parties in general. Liability to third parties can be expected to raise the “chilling” concerns for prosecutors and distracting them from their public duty to promote the administration of justice. On the other hand, as previously noted, our immunity cases have recognized the particular need for remedies to protect accused persons, a concern that is lessened for third parties. In almost all cases of third-party claimants, the balance of these factors will tilt toward immunity.

[61] Piercing the immunity of Crown prosecutors to make them accountable to police officers puts them in perpetual potential conflict with their transcendent public duties of objectivity, independence and integrity in pursuit of ensuring a fair trial for the accused and maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice. Since prosecutorial immunity is preserved in these circumstances, it is “plain and obvious” that the officers’ misfeasance claim would not succeed.


The author has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this Isthatlegal.ca webpage.

Last modified: 30-03-24
By: admin