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Montreal, August 10, 2012 --- A senior woman with post-traumatic stress syndrome has sought leave to appeal a lower court decision in which a Montreal municipal court judge made comments suggesting bias against her because of her psychological state and even described her as being “f--cked” during the trial.

The appeal was filed earlier this week before the Court of Appeal by CRARR lawyer Aymar Missakila on behalf of Ms. PD, a 65 year old woman of Greek-Lebanese background who lives with post-traumatic stress after a dispute and violent arrest in the metro in 2002.

In May 2009, upon arriving at Montmorency metro station in Laval, she called 911 to report objectionable conduct on the part of the public transit employee with whom she had the 2002 dispute and who was stationed at the station. She needed a police report number in order to obtain the video camera that recorded the incident with the view to file a complaint with the Montreal Transit Authority.

When the two Laval police officers arrived, they sought out and took down the public transit employee’s version of events (that she hung around for a long time and harassed him). They then aggressively questioned the woman, detained her and charged her with loitering, without ever asking her the reason that she called 911 and her version of the story. They also fined her for throwing the ticket on the ground when she was detained in a private cell and later asked her to leave the station.

Appearing in municipal court to contest the charges, she was acquitted of the loitering ticket but was found guilty by the trial judge for throwing the first ticket on the ground.

However, the judge’s conduct during the trial raised the spectre of judicial bias and denial of her constitutional right to a fair trial: in addition to constantly interrupting Ms. PD during her testimony, which created more stress for an already psychologically fragile woman, he also made a comment at the end of the trial about the “effects of deinstitutionalization”.

Also, during Ms. PD’s cross-examination, the trial judge observed that “she was frustrated and then she was “fucked” (“fuckée”) and then she explained very well why”, in response to Ms. PD’s statement that she was not “frustrated” but rather “shocked” at the way the Laval police officers treated her. The judge did not quote the F-word as it was not used by any witness in court.

Furthermore, the trial judge reached his verdict despite several questionable pieces of factual evidence, such as the police officer’s admission that the police received the 911 call from Ms. PD and never asked her why, but ended up siding with the public transit employee and charged Ms. PD with loitering; that the videotape of the incident mysteriously stopped before the arrival of the two police officers; or that the public transit employee’s testimony contained serious contradictions.

The judge’s other errors include the fact that while he believed the testimonies of the police and transit officials (especially that of the police officer, whose testimony was deemed “entirely” credible), he acquitted her of the loitering charge but nonetheless found her guilty of the paper throwing charge.

When Ms. PD appealed the verdict, the Superior Court upheld the decision. Furthermore, after examining the circumstances of the trial judge’s use of the word “fuckée”, the Court ruled in the absence of bias.

“The issue is fundamentally about the constitutional right of a person with a recognized mental or psychological disability to a fair trial and to a full and fair trial, even in a simple case of contesting a penal charge in municipal court”, said Mr. Missakila.

“My client is also asking the Court of Appeal to rule whether the trial judge’s unjustified use of the F-word and comments about the “effects of desinstitutionalization” that came out of nowhere constitute evidence of judicial bias that ultimately has the effect of throwing the administration of justice into disrepute,” he added.

The case is also of special importance to civil rights as Ms. PD, through CRARR, had filed a discrimination complaint against the two police officers with the human rights commission. While the penal process (where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt) is still active and under appeal, the commission, whose process is that of civil law and relies on a lower threshold of evidence, has already taken a decision on the case without deference to the appeal.