R. v. Wetzel, 2011 SKPC 9 – Judge Agnew sends message of deterrance to police for Charter breach.

Saskatoon Provincial Court Judge Doug Agnew, in one of the most informative and instructive decisions in the area of “costs”, ordered that the Crown pay $5,000.00 costs to an accused who was wrongfully detained while in police custody. See R. v. Wetzel, 2011 SKPC 9.

Judge Agnew wrote:

“Vindication will be provided, I believe, through the denunciation of the Court and the awarding of damages.  At least with respect to this accused in these circumstances, I do not think this objective to be particularly significant in monetary terms.

Deterrence is an issue of particular significance on the facts before me.  I have expressed above my view of the police actions, and their lack of any attempt to explain or justify them.  I have also indicated in passing the large number of similar cases which have been before the courts in recent years.  One of the significant benefits of damages as a remedy for this type of behaviour is that they are scalable:  that is, if police conduct does not respond to awards in a certain range, then in subsequent cases the damages can be increased.  This is one of the advantages this remedy has over, for example, the stay of proceedings which defence understandably would prefer.  One implication of that benefit is that the amount awarded for deterrence in early cases with respect to a particular wrong should be relatively small, to see if state conduct changes; if it does not, then such amounts should be increased in later cases as required to encourage state compliance with the Charter right in question.”

Counsel should review this decision as it provides an excellant analysis of the law as it relates to costs, among other areas. Furthermore, it demostrates the lengths Courts can go to protect our citizens from unwarrented state intrusion (and abuse).