The Ontario Provincial Police appealed the decision of the Civilian Police Commission which overturned a Hearing Officer’s decision to dismiss the respondent, Constable C.S. Purbrick. The court dismissed the appeal and upheld the Commission’s decision on the basis that its decision finding numerous inadequacies with the Hearing Officer’s decision was reasonable in the circumstances. The Court also found the penalties imposed by the Commisssion to be reasonable.

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Police Commission – Police – Professional misconduct / conduct unbecoming – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties and suspensions – Judicial review – Evidence – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter

Ontario (Provincial Police) v. Purbrick, [2013] O.J. No. 1821, 2013 ONSC 2276, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, April 16, 2013, A.M. Molloy, P.B. Hambly and T.P. Herman JJ.

The respondent, Constable C.S. Purbrick, had pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct charges filed against him under the Police Services Act and had been dismissed from the Ontario Provincial Police (“OPP”) following the decision of a Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer’s decision was appealed to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (“the Commission”) which found the decision unreasonable and substituted a penalty of demotion to 4th Class Constable with limits placed on promotion and subject to conditions with respect to psychology and psychiatry therapy for a period of two years.

The respondent was observed purchasing gas with an OPP credit card while on duty, which he took home and did not use for OPP purposes and was found with office supplies which he had taken without authority. The respondent was arrested and charged with four counts of theft under $5,000 contrary to s. 334 of the Criminal Code, to which he pleaded guilty. Concurrent charges of discreditable conduct were also laid against the respondent, and following a penalty hearing, it was ordered that the respondent be dismissed from the OPP immediately, which was eventually overturned by the Commission.

The OPP appealed the Commission’s decision, taking issue with the Commission’s analysis of questions of mixed fact and law. The Commission had found that the Hearing Officer had made unreasonable findings in the face of the evidence, had failed to appropriately consider the testimony given by the character witnesses and, had failed to consider the relevant penalty factors in reaching his decision.

The Court upheld the Commission’s decision as reasonable. The Court found that the Commission’s decision to treat the difficulties with the Hearing Officer’s decision as cumulative and sufficient to warrant a reversal was reasonable. Further, the Court found that the Commission, in determining whether the Hearing Officer’s reasons could support the reasonableness of the decision to dismiss, was properly observing the principles established under Dunsmuir.

The Court found that the penalty imposed by the Commission was reasonable, having regard to all of the circumstances including the strong mitigating factors, prospects for rehabilitation, and parity with other similar situations. As a result, the appeal was dismissed.

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