Vancouver liable for woman's jail treatment, but restraint device 'justified'

VANCOUVER - When Bobbi O'Shea sued the City of Vancouver and four police constables for binding her feet together and tethering them under a jail door, she hoped her case would end the practice.

See Full Article

Instead, the mother of four fears nothing will change now that a judge has ruled the police were justified in using the restraint device.

"I know it's going to happen again," said O'Shea. "It's too bad that there are going to be more individuals who are going to have to suffer what I suffered."

But she said she was pleased there would be at least "some awareness" of wrongdoing. The judge found the city liable for a breach in her standard of care and awarded her $9,000 in general damages in a decision released to the media Thursday.

The trial heard that O'Shea called 911 after suffering an anxiety attack from smoking crack cocaine in 2008. She expected to be taken to hospital but instead was detained in Vancouver's jail, where guards alleged she was unco-operative and placed her in the device, called a hobble.

She said she felt like she was being "tortured" while held for an hour in the hobble, a nylon strap that is wrapped tightly around the ankles, pulled under a closed door and tethered to an object outside.

Provincial Court Judge Laura Bakan ruled that although the use of the hobble was justified to monitor O'Shea's safety, the situation shouldn't have escalated to the point where it was needed.

Bakan found that the officer in charge of the jail failed to communicate information he had about her medical history to other guards, including that she suffered from anxiety, depression, asthma and a cold.

This led to the guards' failure to "take into account her medical and emotional problems, resulting in an escalation of her anxiety," she wrote.

O'Shea told the trial that she covered up a cell window with toilet paper to stop a male guard from seeing her use the toilet, prompting an officer to cuff her hands behind her back. After she moved her hands to her front repeatedly to wipe her badly running nose, she was placed in the hobble.

The judge said in her ruling that the officer should have followed the policy for people who are arrested for public intoxication and brought O'Shea to see a nurse immediately after her arrival at jail.

Bakan accepted that O'Shea felt "much pain" from the device, but did not find any assault or battery occurred or that officers intended to cause her pain or punishment.

She dismissed the action against the four constables, instead finding the city vicariously liable for the breach of standard of care.

Pivot Legal Society lawyer Doug King, who represented O'Shea, said it was unfortunate the decision did not come down harder on the use of the hobble.

"I don't feel like it sent the strong enough message about restraint devices and how dangerous they can be, and how horrible they are for the people in them," he said.

He said Victoria Police stopped using the devices after a 15-year-old girl won $60,000 in a lawsuit against the department in 2008.

Vancouver Police Const. Brian Montague said unfortunately police are required to use the hobble from time to time. There are cases where someone is intent on harming themselves or others or exhibiting uncontrollable violent behaviour, he said.

"Any restraining device is used to help ensure not only the safety of officers, but the safety of the person in our custody," he said.

He said the VPD will review and examine the decision to determine if any changes to practices, policies and procedures are needed.

After her release, O'Shea began using crack cocaine heavily and became homeless for about a year. She's clean now and lives with her children, but said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I don't think it'll ever totally go away," she said. "I'll always be leery of the police. I'll always be untrusting, for the rest of my life."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Spain dismantles migrants' "dock of shame" in Canary Islands

    World News CTV News
    ARGUINEGUIN, SPAIN -- Spanish authorities have dismantled the bulk of a makeshift camp for migrant processing that for over three months wasknown as the "dock of shame" for holding in unfit conditions thousands of Africans who arrived recently in the Canary Islands. Source
  • Russia under renewed pressure to explain Navalny poisoning

    World News CTV News
    THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS -- Russia came under renewed pressure Monday to explain the nerve agent attack on opposition figure Alexei Navalny as the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog got underway amid measures aimed at reining in the spread of coronavirus. Source
  • Charity says shelling kills 11 civilians in Yemen's Hodeida

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- Artillery fire killed at least 11 civilians, including four children, near Yemen's strategic port city of Hodeida amid that country's grinding war, an international charity said Monday. Yemen's internationally recognized government blamed the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for the attack. Source
  • Quebec reports 1,333 new cases of COVID-19, 23 more deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec health authorities reported 1,333 more cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the province since the start of the pandemic to 142,371. Of them, 12,138 are active. The province's seven-day average now stands at 1,309 new cases per day. Source
  • 'Thank you for keeping our world safe': Grade 3 students pen letters of support to Manitoba health-care workers

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- Following a COVID-19 exposure in their school, a group of Grade 3 students in Manitoba decided to take some control by sending their gratitude to workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. Linda Andres, the teacher of the Grade 3 class at Happy Thoughts School in Selkirk, Man. Source
  • A man fatally shot a teenager in Oregon for playing loud music Thanksgiving week, police say

    World News CTV News
    A man in Oregon fatally shot a teenager Thanksgiving week after getting upset that the 19-year-old was playing music loudly in the parking lot of an inn that the two were staying at, police said. Source
  • Ontario logs more than 1,700 new cases of COVID-19 as positivity rate inches higher

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario is reporting more than 1,700 new COVID-19 infections Monday morning as the province’s positivity rate inches closer to five per cent. Health officials added 1,746 cases, which is up slightly from the 1,708 infections added a day earlier Source
  • B.C. report on anti-Indigenous racism in the health-care system to be released Monday

    Canada News CBC News
    An independent investigation into the extent of anti-Indigenous racism in the health-care system in B.C. is complete, and the findings are set to be released on Monday at 11 a.m. PT. The report is expected to include findings of fact and specific recommendations. Source
  • Senators ponder how far to go to protect charter rights in assisted-dying bill

    Canada News CBC News
    There was a strong message conveyed to cabinet ministers last week as senators grilled them on the Trudeau government's bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying. We told you so. Ministers were repeatedly reminded that when the federal government introduced its first bill in 2016 to legalize doctor-assisted death in Canada, senators warned it was unconstitutional and predicted it would be struck down by the courts. Source
  • CBC News journalists deported from Uganda, despite having press credentials

    World News CBC News
    A CBC News crew was deported from Uganda this weekend despite following protocols laid out for foreign journalists entering the country. The deportation, which occurred on Friday, happened about a month before the country's elections. Opposition parties and election observers have expressed concerns the vote won't be free or fair. Source