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Police liable for negligent investigations: Canada Supreme Court

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] Thursday ruled [judgment text; case materials] that police officers can be held liable for inadequate investigations, in a case that could have major repercussions for the way that Canadian police work is conducted. In a 6-3 decision, judges found that police owe a duty of care to suspects to conduct a conscientious investigation, and that officers who fail to do so could be sued if the suspect suffers for their negligence. Several Canadian provinces, including Quebec, already allow lawsuits for negligent police investigation, but Alberta, New Brunswick [government websites], and others have opposed the idea, fearing that lawsuits could hamper police work.

Jason George Hill was arrested in 1995 and held in jail for 20 months for a series of robberies by the so-called "Plastic Bag Bandit." Hill was ultimately cleared when the real robber was found and convicted. He later sued Ontario's Hamilton police [official website] for negligent investigation and malicious prosecution, arguing that police proceeded against him despite flimsy evidence. The Supreme Court found against Hill Thursday, but recognized "negligent investigation" as a legitimate cause of action. The Globe and Mail has more. CBC News has additional coverage.

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