In 2008, a woman was stopped on the streets of Ottawa, questioned, and arrested for public intoxication. When inside the cellblocks, she was restrained by four male officers. Sergeant Steve Desjourdy then used scissors to cut her shirt and bra off. She was then left topless in a cell for three hours.
Desjourdy was initially cleared of any misconduct by the Ottawa Police Service’s internal investigation, but a second investigation by the province’s Special Investigations Unit resulted in a charge of sexual assault being laid against him.
In a verdict issued this morning, Desjourdy was acquitted of sexual assault. Despite the Crown’s best arguments about the strip search being an intrusion on the survivor’s sexual dignity and integrity, Judge Lipson held that Sergeant Desjourdy used reasonable force towards her. He also concluded that he had a reasonable doubt that Sergeant Desjourdy cut off the survivor’s bra and shirt in order to punish and humiliate her.
In our view, taking someone’s clothes off while they are held captive IS sexual assault. And here’s how this ruling reads to survivors: it is okay to sexually assault inmates if you are a police officer. What a shame.
More details about Judge Lipson’s verdict should be reported throughout the day; follow the story here.