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Rob Ford's 'crack' admission called legally safe, 'cynical' political ploy

Mayor Rob Ford’s stunning turnaround admission that he has in fact smoked crack cocaine was little more than a cynical ploy designed to curry public sympathy while offering little exposure to criminal charges, law experts said Tuesday.

While his comments are potential evidence against him, they simply aren’t enough for police to act, and Ford would have known that before opening his mouth, they said.

“This is all part of a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion,” said noted criminal lawyer James Lockyer.

“He is playing a very, very clever game here.”

After months of denials, obfuscations and outright avoidance, Ford arrived at city hall Tuesday morning and practically begged reporters to ask him directly if he had ever smoked crack cocaine.

He was quick to provide the answer.

“Yes, I’ve smoked crack cocaine … probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago,” Ford told a disbelieving crush of media.

When it comes to potential charges, the biggest problem is that his admission lacks any specificity, experts said.

Among other things, police would need to be able to show that what he smoked was in fact cocaine. They would also need to know an approximate date for when the offence occurred and even to know where it occurred.

“His saying it is evidence (but) they need more than that,” said criminal lawyer and former Crown attorney, Mark Polley.

“You wouldn’t want to be taking a long shot on this with all the resources that it’s going to take up.”

Police would not be responding to Ford’s statements, a spokesman said.

Last week, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair announced that investigators had seized a video that apparently shows Ford smoking crack and making homophobic and racist comments.

Blair said the video offered no grounds to lay charges.

The mayor, his brother and Ford’s lawyer have been vocal in calling for it to be made public but Blair refused, saying the video is evidence in the extortion case against the mayor’s friend and driver, Alexander (Sandro) Lisi.

Despite the high profile nature of the Ford case, the situation is akin to Justin Trudeau — Ford is reported to made a derogatory slur against the Liberal leader in the “crack” video — or other politicians who have admitted to using another illegal substance, marijuana.

A lack of hard detailed evidence all but rules out charges against them.

What is clear, legal observers said, is that Ford would certainly have been following his lawyer’s advice every step of the way, even when he claimed how difficult and embarrassing it was to make the confession.

“His admission is not really telling us anything that we didn’t already know but gains him a sympathetic audience in many quarters,” Lockyer said.

“What we’re seeing here is a clever and highly cynical political strategy being concocted by Mr. Ford and his circle, which includes a criminal lawyer who knows what he’s doing.”