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Former Toronto drug squad officers must face trial, top court rules

Staff Sgt. John Schertzer leaves provincial court in Scarborough in this Jan. 7, 2004, file photo.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

Five former Toronto drug squad officers caught up in a massive allegation of police corruption must face trial, the Supreme Court of Canada said Monday.

In a 3-0 ruling, a panel of Supreme Court judges denied the officers leave to appeal an earlier Ontario Court of Appeal decision that had rejected a lower-court finding that their right to a speedy trial had been violated.

The officers - John Schertzer, Steven Correia, Joseph Miched, Ned Maodus and Raymond Pollard - are charged with falsifying notes, robbing and beating drug dealers, and conducting illegal searches between 1997 and 2002.

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Monday's decision was an important triumph for Crown counsel Kenneth Campbell: The original trial ruling had tarnished the reputation of the Ministry of the Attorney-General, finding that it moved the 56-month case along at a "glacial" pace.

In staying the charges in January, 2008, Mr. Justice Ian Nordheimer of the Superior Court said that the Crown acted without urgency in disclosing material to the defence. "The Crown was sitting on its hands rather than actively assisting the investigation," he said. Judge Nordheimer cited damage done to the careers, families and psychological welfare of the officers.

On appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned his ruling in relation to five of the former drug squad officers, but upheld it in the case of a sixth, Richard Benoit.

"We will be ready for trial," Patrick Ducharme, a lawyer representing Mr. Maodus, said Monday. He said that not only did the defendants lose their stay of proceedings, their counsel will now have to redo a series of protracted, pretrial motions.

"From the perspective of the accused, it seems difficult to accept that previous rulings that were not appealed - and therefore were not challenged as incorrect - will require new rulings," Mr. Ducharme said. "The accused are therefore placed in the uncomfortable position, and some would say, unfair position of having to relitigate issues that have already been decided in their favour."

The criminal charges against the officers first took the form of Police Services Act charges. These were dismissed in the fall of 1998. Two years later, the officers were criminally charged with fraud, theft, forgery and breach of trust.

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