This forum is not purely dedicated to legal discourse. While I may attempt to 'raise the bar' with some pieces relating to law and being a criminal defense lawyer in Toronto, I also plan to use this blog as a medium to express my often critical thoughts on the daily grind that is life. Throw in some random videos and internet fodder, and the bar is sure to be lowered.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Police Body Cameras Will Aid the Justice System in Truth-Seeking

As originally posted on the Advocate Daily Website.

The use of police body cameras is a welcome evolution of what technology currently brings to the job and will reduce the burden of the court resources, says Toronto criminal defence lawyer Kevin Hunter.
“This not only reduces the burden on court resources by eliminating unnecessary trials, but, perhaps more importantly, video evidence promotes the truth-seeking function of the criminal justice system,” he tells
Hunter, associate at Edward H. Royle & Associates, comments on the issue as Toronto Police announce the force will be equipping 100 of its officers with body cameras in an effort to study the technology’s effectiveness in reducing the use of force, reports the CBC.
The decision follows the death of Sammy Yatim, 18, who died after he was shot and Tasered by police aboard an empty streetcar last July. Const. James Forcillo is charged with second-degree murder for his role in the shooting, says the public broadcaster.
Passersby took numerous videos of the shooting and posted them online, stirring public outrage about the man’s death, says the CBC.
A recommendation in a report that followed the shooting urged police to equip its officers with body-worn cameras, says the article.
Hunter says the addition of the cameras is an important step for policing.
Quite apart from the modern prevalence of video footage taken by members of the public, this type of evidence is already used in police stations to record cell areas, booking procedures and breath testing in impaired driving cases,” he says. More recently, the recording of footage via police car dash-cam video has paved the way for the inevitable call for police to be equipped with cameras not only in their car, but on their person at all times.”
The use of police body cams also facilitates the production of indisputable evidence for court, says Hunter.
“In a courtroom setting, video evidence is much preferable than often problematic testimonial evidence,” he says.  “It is simply the best evidence available. Video footage never forgets, it never embellishes, it never lies.  In a word, it is indisputable.”
Hunter notes that while this kind of evidence is invaluable to a defence lawyer, it brings numerous benefits to the justice system as a whole.
“The true value of video evidence has to be viewed not only through the lens of my profession, but in its entirety,” he says. There can be no doubt that if a judge deciding a case can rely on evidence captured on video, this makes his/her function easier. Often judges are engaged in the difficult task of deciding credibility on disputed testimonial facts. Video will often be dispositive of the issue.”
And even before the trial setting, Hunter says video evidence affords the opportunity for Crown attorneys and defence counsel alike to assess their case.
“It may well be that certain cases never see the courtroom, either by a Crown who recognizes that he/she has no prospect of conviction or a defence lawyer recommending a resolution to his client, all based on what the indisputable video footage demonstrates,” he says.
“Police officers will know they are being recorded at all times and will be held accountable for inaccurately reporting details of their investigations. Moreover, the police will also benefit from body cameras – video footage can be used to exonerate officers from frivolous or vexatious complaints against them.”
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