Complaint filed against Mayor John Tory over tweets in murder case of Toronto police officer

The Law Union of Ontario says the mayor violated Code of Conduct rules in a series of tweets criticizing a judge's decision to grant bail to the accused in the case


The Law Union of Ontario has filed a complaint with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission against Toronto Mayor John Tory alleging he violated the Code of Conduct as a member of the Toronto Police Services Board in a series of tweets on a high-profile murder case involving a Toronto police officer.

The tweets, which were reported by the media, criticized the decision of Ontario Superior Court Justice Jill Copeland to grant bail in September to Umar Zameer, who is facing a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Toronto police Constable Jeffrey Northrup. The 31-year veteran was killed in July while responding to a report of a robbery in a parking lot at Toronto City Hall, according to Toronto police.

The Law Union’s complaint alleges Tory overstepped legal boundaries when he criticized the decision to grant bail to Zameer as “questionable” while adding that it “is almost impossible to imagine a circumstance in which an accused in a case of first-degree murder would be granted bail.”

The complaint says Tory “demonstrated a failure to exercise the utmost circumspection and prudence required of all Police Service Board members by the Code of Conduct prescribed by the Police Services Act.” And that his comments “undermined fundamental rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that as a Police Services Board member he was under a duty to uphold and safeguard.”

The complaint alleges the mayor’s comments “were made without reference to the reasons of Justice Copeland to grant bail, the evidence heard about the circumstances of the offence and the background of the defendant and the submissions of Crown and defence counsel.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose son-in-law is a Toronto police officer, also criticized the judge’s decision on Twitter, writing that “it’s completely unacceptable that the person charged for this heinous crime is now out on bail. Our justice system needs to get its act together …”

Tory’s comments attracted criticism from the defence bar, including an op-ed in the Toronto Star by Toronto lawyer, Reed Rusonik noting that “Tory was trained as a lawyer, and he does know better — much better [that] the right to bail is intertwined with the presumption of innocence.”

The complaint notes that Tory’s comments drew criticism from Justice Copeland at a hearing on Friday where a request from Zameer’s defence lawyer to lift a publication ban on the bail proceedings was being heard. The judge called the mayor’s and Ford’s comments “reckless.”

The complaint also concerns earlier comments made by the mayor to the Toronto Sun on the granting of bail by the courts in cases involving gun charges.

He was quoted in the paper as saying that “most people seem to think that we need tougher bail conditions except… members of the judiciary.”

NOW reached out to the mayor’s office for comment on Monday morning. On Tuesday evening, the mayor’s spokesperson, Lawvin Hadisi, provided the following statement: “Mayor Tory was expressing his personal opinion as an elected official on serious public matters as he is expected to do on a daily basis. He continues to believe as he has for many years that when someone on a serious criminal charge is granted bail, the reasons for that bail should not be covered by a publication ban.

“Greater transparency on the part of the judicial system, including making all or part of the reasons for a bail decision public for the media to report immediately will contribute to the legitimacy of those difficult decisions in the eyes of the public and can at the same time protect the right to a fair trial. As he has said many times, the mayor truly believes the present workings of the bail system are eroding public confidence in the justice system.”

Hadisi notes that City Council voted in October 2019 to express its support for increased bail restrictions and tougher sentences for those charged and convicted of gun offences.

@enzodimatteo

This story was last updated with a statement from the mayor’s office on Tuesday, December 7 at 9:25 pm.

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