A Hearing Officer stayed a disciplinary hearing under the Ontario Police Services Act on the basis that the hearing would constitute an abuse of process after the accused police officer had been acquitted on criminal charges arising from the same conduct that triggered the hearing. This decision was quashed on judicial review as the court found that proceeding with the disciplinary hearing would not constitute an abuse of process.
Administrative law – Police – Disciplinary proceedings – Criminal charges – Evidence – Hearings – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Police Commission – Abuse of process – Test – Judicial review – Stay of proceedings – Standard of review – Correctness
Peel (Regional Municipality) Police Service v. Watson,  O.J. No. 3525, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, August 18, 2005, J.M. Farley, K.E. Swinton and B.L. Croll JJ.
The Applicant police officer brought an application for judicial review to determine whether a Hearing Officer erred in staying a disciplinary hearing under the Ontario Police Services Act (the “Act”) for abuse of process because the officer had been acquitted of criminal charges that arose from the same conduct that triggered the disciplinary hearing.
The Applicant had been charged with theft under $5,000 and possession of stolen property. He was also served with a notice under the Act alleging discreditable conduct. The charges under the Act were held in abeyance pending the criminal matter. The Applicant was acquitted of both criminal charges in September 2002. At the hearing before the Hearing Officer in July 2004, the Applicant brought a motion to stay the proceedings on the basis of abuse of process. The Hearing Officer acceded to that application.
The Court held that the decision of the Hearing Officer to stay the disciplinary proceedings on the basis of abuse of process was a question of law and, as such, the standard of review was that of correctness.
The Hearing Officer found that the trial judge made determinative findings with respect to the credibility of witnesses and that he was bound by those findings. The Court held, however, that the trial judge did not make a determinative judicial finding regarding the Applicant’s credibility and that to allow the disciplinary hearing to proceed would not bring the criminal acquittal into question. The criminal trial and the disciplinary hearing, while focused on the same factual matrix, were separate inquiries with distinct purposes and governed by different standards of proof. The Court noted that there was no authority for the proposition that a criminal acquittal is, in disciplinary proceedings, evidence or proof that the gravamen of the criminal charge was unfounded or untrue. The Court held that a stay of proceedings for abuse of process should only be granted in the clearest of cases. This was not the clearest of cases and, therefore, the Hearing Officer erred in law.
The stay of proceedings was quashed and the Hearing Officer was directed to hold a hearing into the allegations of misconduct against the Applicant.
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