08 Jul Assault By Police

In Fong v. British Columbia (Minister of Justice), 2019 BCSC 263, the Plaintiff was the manager of a hotel that attracted a rough crowd. The police attended there frequently, and the bar patrons and hotel staff were generally hostile to them.

The Plaintiff brought claims for assault and battery, false arrest and false imprisonment after being injured in an interaction with police. The Plaintiff alleged that his injuries developed into chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Liability turned primarily on the question of whether the police had grounds to arrest the Plaintiff, as he was injured during the course of an arrest.

On the night in question, the police concluded that a Licensed Premises Check (“LPC”) should be written up for the hotel. Information from the bar’s liquor licence was needed in order to fill out the LPC. The police had not seen the licence in the bar area, so the doorman and the bar manager were asked to produce it, and both refused. The Plaintiff then came outside to deal with the police.

For the police to have lawfully arrested the Plaintiff, they must have had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that he was obstructing them in their duties. This, in turn, required that there be a positive duty on him to produce the liquor licence to the police and to identify himself to them.

The judge concluded that the police did not have an objective basis for believing the Plaintiff had a duty to produce the liquor licence to them. Moreover, there were no proper steps taken to ascertain whether the licence was in fact displayed, which was the impetus behind the request to produce the licence in the first place.

With respect to the Plaintiff’s refusal to identify himself, the Defendant argued that this was obstruction because he was deliberately avoiding the issuance or service of a violation ticket. However, there was never any suggestion that the police were writing up a violation ticket. Instead, they were writing a LPC, a document that was directed to the licensee, not to the Plaintiff. Since the police did not need the Plaintiff’s identification in order to complete a LPC, the judge concluded that there was no duty on the Plaintiff to identify himself.

The judge held that the Plaintiff’s arrest that night was unlawful. As such, the Defendant was liable for his assault and battery, and unlawful imprisonment.

The judge was satisfied that as a result of the hard takedown by the police, the Plaintiff suffered injuries. The judge was also satisfied that the violent nature of the incident, together with the physical injuries suffered by the Plaintiff, caused him some degree of anxiety and stress.

Unfortunately there was no reliable evidence on which to conclude that the Plaintiff’s psychological problems stemmed from the police incident. The judge thought it more likely that the Plaintiff’s psychological problems arose due to the accumulation of setbacks in his life, which would have occurred even if the police incident had not taken place. Accordingly, the judge concluded that the Plaintiff’s damages were limited to those physical injuries and reasonably-associated symptoms that he suffered by reason of the police assault.

The judge awarded damages to Plaintiff in the amount of $65,000.