Sexual Assault in Police Detention: Ottawa Officer Acquitted

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.


  1. I am in shock as well. I am reminded of the Twinkie defense verdict that got Harvey Milk’s murderer acquitted. This verdict only deepens the suspicions and fear I have towards police, private security firms and the justice system.

    There may be a glimmer of hope, the victim has a very strong civil case. (Although she may be forced to a settlement with a confidentiality clause, barring her from speaking freely about her ordeal)

    Ultimately the best court is the one of public opinion, if people get together and protest this decision in the streets, (just like when Harvey Milk’s murderer got acquitted), the victim may be able to find some strength in healing.

  2. When and where were Judge Lipson’s reasons posted on the web? What’s the URL? (I’m attempting to be subtle.)

  3. The report from the Ottawa Citizen is here.

  4. I’d like to see the reasons as well and am curious about the treatment of the lesser included offences to the main charge.

  5. This is a link to an article published yesterday in the Ottawa Citizen, by a University of Ottawa law professor. There’s no link to the reasons. The content of the the article suggests, to me, that if the professor didn’t have the reasons, she either heard the judge give them or had a very good summary.