Update: see previous post – January 11, 2013 Toronto Police Officer Charged and Convicted of Assaulting Girlfriend
A Toronto criminal defence lawyer assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, a police officer, is demanding an explanation from the police union’s head about why it funded his defence, even though it involved off-duty domestic charges.
“I am directly calling into question the integrity of your organization,” Kathryn Wells writes to Toronto Police Union president Mike McCormack in her March 13 email.
“Women in our communities (particularly those involved with police officers) need to know that the Toronto Police Association does not turn a blind eye to domestic violence by funding cases of officers who are violent towards the women in their lives when they are off duty.”
After an eight-day trial in January, Ontario Court Justice Michael Epstein convicted Toronto Police Constable Jason Peacock, her one-time boyfriend, of assault and one count of mischief for causing more than $4,000 damage to her condo.
Wells, 35, said in her email to McCormack that throughout the case, defence lawyer Devin Bains required the assistance of a junior lawyer and a secretary in court. “Not only that, the association also funded a Superior Court bail review in which Jason Peacock sought to have the no-drinking condition removed from his recognizance,” Wells wrote.
Last July 5, Bains told Justice Mary Lou Benotto the no-alcohol ban was “humiliating” for his client “particularly now that the summer social season is here.” The judge rejected the request, noting “it is not impossible in social situations to drink non-alcoholic beverages without embarrassment. Indeed, they can be consumed discreetly and can easily pass for alcoholic beverages.”
Peacock’s sentencing hearing was put off Friday. It will now occur April 30.
The Crown seeks 15 to 30 days in jail, three years probation and restitution of $4,300 for the damage he did to her condo.
Peacock, 40, refused to comment Friday about whether the union has funded his defence.
But in a March 26, 2011 email sent to Wells’ legal partner, John Scarfe, Peacock wrote “luckily I am getting coverage from my association for my legal expenses.”
In an emailed response to Wells’ request for a meeting, McCormack said he could not discuss the issue of Peacock’s legal counsel as the matter is still before the court. (He later reiterated the position to the Star.)
“The Toronto Police Association is a strong advocate against domestic violence,” McCormack added in his email.
Wells said she contacted McCormack this week after two earlier emails sent to the TPA’s director of legal services were ignored.
The TPA makes its legal funding decisions on a case-by-case basis, McCormack has said in the past. A legal committee makes those decisions.
A copy of the TPA’s financial assistance for legal services plan and fund, obtained by The Star, says the following: “In appropriate cases, to provide on a “without prejudice” basis, financial assistance benefits to a member of the plan, when the member is charged in relation to an act(s) in the attempted performance in good faith of his or her duties as an employee of the service …”
It adds a decision by the plan board to provide or deny financial assistance benefits “is not based on the alleged or determined innocence or guilt of the member who has been charged with a criminal offence.”
In an interview Friday, Wells said “the average person who is charged by Toronto police does not have this powerhouse fund behind them,” though there are certainly legitimate reasons for the fund to exist.
She added that, ultimately, it appears taxpayers footed Peacock’s legal bills.
The incident occurred early Christmas Eve 2010 after a long argument when Wells ordered Peacock to leave her home, where he had been staying.
He swore at her, shook her hard by the shoulders, punched holes in her walls, smashed drinking glasses and overturned her marble-topped kitchen island, she testified.
The 6-foot-1 officer denied shaking the 5-foot-4- lawyer, saying she in fact kicked and pushed him, causing damage to the wall. The judge found Peacock’s version of events “implausible in many respects.”
After the judgment, the Toronto Police Service suspended him with pay.