The Chatham-Kent Police Services Board has been named as a defendant in a $2 million lawsuit which alleges police conspired to harass and intimidate a Wallaceburg family to the point of mounting a “swat team” home invasion which resulted in parents being physically assaulted in front of their children.
The suit was filed Wednesday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by lawyer Steven Pickard of the Windsor firm Colautti Landry Law.
Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn had the following comment.
“Yesterday, a civil lawsuit was filed against a member of the Chatham-Kent Police Service and Chatham-Kent Police Services Board. We are unable to further comment as the matter is now in the hands of our municipal lawyer.”
Calls for comment from the other defendants weren’t returned.
The suit names CKPS constable Robert Bowles, the police board and Kevin, Dina and Katie Carter; three members of a family that had been neighbours of the complainants, Stephen Collins, Rikki Murphy and their two children.
The suit alleges that in 2009, Collins and Murphy entered into a relationship with another adult daughter of the Carters who eventually filed a police complaint that she had been harassed.
Charges were filed by the CKPS, however, the Crown refused to proceed when, according to the statement of claim, evidence emerged that the relationship was consensual.
It is alleged from April through September, 2012, Collins and Murphy were the subject of 15 police reports by the Carters and had their property videotaped illegally by the Carters at the request of the CKPS.
No charges were filed as a result of the complaints.
On Sept. 27 of that year, the suit alleges that Bowles “maliciously or negligently swore false information” which led to a Feeney Warrant being issued allowing police to enter a home without warning or consent to arrest an accused.
The suit said Bowles swore false information by stating that he believed Collins and Murphy were evading service of a summons and therefore, a Feeney Warrant was required.
“Bowles had never attempted to serve a summons and Stephen and Rikki had always made themselves available to officers of the CKPS,” the suit alleges.
The same day the Feeney Warrant was granted, the suit claimed Bowles “led a team of five officers and raided the home in ‘SWAT team’ fashion – unannounced, climbing over fences, entering with a battering ram, yelling, with guns drawn.”
In front of their children police “put Stephen (Collins) in a choke hold and pinned Rikki (Murphy) to a wall. The police proceeded to ‘clear’ the house. They arrested Stephen and Rikki.”
The couple was taken to the police station where it’s alleged “police coerced them to agree to oppressive Promise to Appear conditions under threat of (their children) being taken away by Children’s Services”.
The couple was charged with mischief and harassment. On Nov. 21, 2012, they pled “not guilty” to the charges.
The suit said the stress caused Murphy to agree to a peace bond to have the charges dropped but Collins continued to fight the charge.
On March 14, 2014, eighteen months after Collins’ arrest and after at least eight court appearances, the Crown dropped the charges.
In order to escape the continuing harassment and surveillance, Collins and Murphy sold their home at a loss in June 2015.
The suit charges that the couple’s children have been bullied and taunted and one has planned suicide attempts and has been ruled an “8 out of 10 for risk of suicide.”
The suit claims damages under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms including an illegal warrant and illegal search of the plaintiffs’ home contrary to Section 8 of the Charter, the wrongful arrest of Collins and Murphy contrary to Sections 7 and 9 of the Charter and subjection to unreasonable conditions of release contrary to Section 11(e) of the Charter.
It further claims “the actions and conspiracy of the Carters and Bowles in the manner in which the arrest was conducted were calculated to violate and terrorize the plaintiffs contrary to Section 7 of the Charter.”