Gendered and Racialized Violence, Strip Searches, Sexual Assault and Abuse of Prosecutorial Power
(2011) 79 Criminal Reports (6th) 132-150
13 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2011 Last revised: 19 May 2016
Date Written: 2011
In the early morning hours of September 6, 2008, S.B., a twenty-seven-year old African Canadian, experienced the depths of depravity at the hands of five officers with the Ottawa Police Service. She was arrested unlawfully for effectively questioning why she had been stopped by the police, taken to the police station where she was assaulted and strip searched in the presence of a number of male officers, one of whom cut off her shirt and bra with a pair of scissors, and then left half-naked in a cell for over three hours. When she left the police station, she found herself charged with assaulting a police officer. The case was reviewed on a number of occasions by senior prosecutors who believed that the prosecution of S.B. was in the public interest. Two years after the incident, a trial judge stayed the charge concluding that it was a "travesty" and that what happened to her was an "indignity to a human being."
This article examines a number of dimensions of the case including (i) the elements of gendered and racialized stereotyping and violence in the case; (ii) the degree of departure from R. v. Golden, the leading Canadian case on strip searches; (iii) whether what occured was a sexual assault; and finally, (iv) the issue of accountability and the decision of the Ottawa Crown Attorney's Office to pursue a prosecution against S.B. as opposed to the police officers involved.
Keywords: Racialized and gendered violence, strip searches, sexual assault, malicious prosecution, law society regulation
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