Skurka's Spin: Man's arrest over daughter's drawing 'a travesty'
Steven Skurka, CTV Legal Analyst
Published Wednesday, February 29, 2012 7:12AM EST
The account of a Kitchener man, Jessie Sansone, being arrested at his children's school after his four-year-old daughter drew a crayon picture of a man holding a gun has garnered international attention.
When the girl's teacher asked who the man was, the reply was that it was her daddy, adding that ''he uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters," The Record newspaper reported.
The school principal, child welfare officials and the police quickly mobilized to deal with a perceived dangerous situation. Three police officers greeted Sansone in the principal's office. He was subsequently arrested, informed that he was being charged with possession of a firearm, handcuffed and put through a thorough strip search at the police station.
Within hours, Jessie Sansone was released and received an apology from a detective. The police, as well as school officials and the principal stoutly continue to defend their actions.
It is difficult to conceive of a clearer case of an unlawful arrest. There was no basis to even remotely justify it. A discreet inquiry would have disclosed that Sansone had a toy gun in his house.
The gravity of the police conduct was enhanced by the totally unnecessary strip search of Sansone.
Under the scrutiny of the Charter of Rights, it would surely have been held to be unreasonable. The Supreme Court of Canada, in a judgment released over a decade ago, recognized that strip-searches ''represent a significant invasion of privacy and are often a humiliating, degrading and traumatic experience for individuals subject to them.''
There is a report that Sansone has retained a lawyer to deal with his police encounter. His legal claim for a civil suit is viable.
Why is this case important? Police are invested with the authority to enforce the law. They commonly exercise it with proper restraint and care. The failure to respect the lawful boundaries that are imposed on the police, as manifested by this case, leads to a dangerous outcome. What happened to Jessie Sansone was a travesty that is proper cause for alarm. It should never be repeated.
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