In a decision released today, Mr. Justice Tysoe of the Supreme Court of British Columbia has declared that Mr. Ward’s constitutional Charter rights were violated when he was imprisoned and strip-searched and when his car was seized on August 1, 2004. The judge awarded damages totalling $10,100 against the defendants, the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia.

The incident occurred on Vancouver’s east side, near an event attended by former Prime Minister Chretien. The police apparently believed that Mr. Ward, a Vancouver lawyer with an unblemished record, might somehow have been plotting to throw a cream pie at the Prime Minister. That of course was false, and despite conducting a lengthy further investigation, the Vancouver police have never been able to produce a shred of evidence to support such a ridiculous assertion.

Mr. Ward’s offers to accept an explanation and an apology from the authorities were rejected, as was his attempt to resolve the civil court case summarily. It is unknown how much taxpayer money the Defendants spent in the four and one half years that culminated in a six day trial. The Province of British Columbia was represented by three lawyers at trial, suggesting that it must have been an expensive exercise indeed.

Read the decision: 2007 BCSC 3 Ward v. City of Vancouver

This case highlights the inadequacies of the British Columbia police complaint process. After failing to obtain an apology, Mr. Ward lodged a formal complaint in 2002 with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. The OPCC assigned the investigation to the Abbotsford Police Department, a nearby police force, which found all the complaints about Vancouver Police conduct to be unsubstantiated. So, an impartial judge finds three complaints made out and finds that the police acted unlawfully, while police investigators had somehow reached an opposite conclusion! What’s wrong with this picture?

CTV news report