If you were accused and charged of shooting someone multiple times, would you expect the authorities to release you simply on the condition that you appear for your court dates?
In her more than 20 years as a criminal lawyer in Ontario, Kim Schofield says she’s never had a client released on a promise to appear before the courts after being charged with attempted murder.
“I can say without hesitation never. Especially when it involves a firearm,” she says.
However, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has extended that courtesy to a detective sergeant with the Niagara Regional Police Service, who is accused of shooting his fellow officer not once, but multiple times during an alleged violent confrontation on Nov. 29.
On that day, Const. Nathan Parker was investigating a crash that had occurred days earlier, with his superior officer Det. Sgt. Shane Donovan. What happened next has not been made public, but a fight apparently broke out between the two longtime officers. The cause of the altercation has been a topic of much speculation.
The SIU alleged a gun was fired repeatedly and Const. Parker suffered serious injuries. According to local media reports Parker was injured in the shoulder, upper leg and one bullet took off the end of his nose.
Schofield believes the SIU’s move to release Donovan in March, shortly after they charged him with attempted murder, assault with a weapon and aggravated assault, goes against a mandate around any kind of gun violence in Toronto and the region.
“Not only would they (the accused) never get released from the police station, but releases are always opposed and there’s hearings,” she says. “I guess the difference here is it’s a firearm that is lawfully possessed, his (Det. Sgt. Donovan) connection to the community is another …there’s certainly arguments on the other side of that, in light of the fact that he’s a police officer, he should be held to a higher standard.”
Schofield also notes the SIU likely has intimate knowledge about what prompted the reported incident that has shocked not just the community, but their fellow officers as well.
Constable Parker, who has now recovered in hospital, is a 28-year veteran of the force. However, he has apparently faced multiple disciplinary hearings under the police services act. In 2015 he plead guilty to discreditable conduct and unnecessary use of force against a prisoner and was docked pay.
CityNews reached out to the SIU about why they released Sgt. Donovan after they laid the three serious charges last month.
In an email they replied:
“The bail provisions of the Criminal Code allow for a release to be crafted based on the character of the accused, the nature and circumstances of the charge, whether or not the accused is a flight risk or has roots in the community, the likelihood that the accused will re-offend.”
The SIU’s response brings up a question of bias and whether people in positions of power are extended privileges not afforded to the general public.
“Maybe its not so much that the conditions the officer faces are inappropriate based on a promise to appear, but rather maybe it’s how other members of the community are dealt with that’s clearly inappropriate — by having very strict and punitive bail conditions in the context of the presumption of innocence.”
Det. Sgt. Shane Donovan has been suspended with pay. His next court date is scheduled for May 9 in St. Catharines, Ont.