Montreal police officers specializing in spinning will be able to disguise themselves to testify in court to allow the accused to see their facial expressions while preserving their anonymity, a judge has ruled.
“It is in the interests of the proper administration of justice that an order be made allowing tailing agents to hide certain aspects of their appearance, without concealing their face itself”, judges Judge Dennis Galiatsatos in a decision. rendered recently at the Montreal courthouse.
Hat, tuque, hooded kangaroo, gloves and even wig: eight officers from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) specializing in spinning who are called to testify in the case of Kensey Simon, accused of possession of drugs for the purpose of traffic, can change their appearance before facing the judge.
Initially, the prosecution had planned to install a screen between the 25-year-old accused and the witnesses, in order to protect their identity.
Full and complete defense
But, according to M.and Kristina Markovic, defending, it would violate her client’s rights to make full answer and defence, submits the document.
Because even if the right to see the face of a witness “is not absolute”, the accused could not participate actively in his trial by observing “the reactions and hesitations” of the witnesses, in order to then guide his lawyer in the cross-examination, underlines the magistrate.
“It would be fundamentally unfair to be accused of serious crimes by secret or unknown witnesses,” he adds.
In the opinion of the prosecution, anonymity is at the heart of the role of a tailing agent, who must at all costs “avoid being recognized”. Its identification could jeopardize certain spinning operations, the document reads.
“If suspects know they are being watched, they will be able to modify their behavior accordingly […]. In the most extreme cases, recognition of the spinner could lead to a physical confrontation, including assaulting the police officer or a violent ambush,” the judge continued.
With face uncovered
The judge thus decided to mitigate the risk by allowing disguised testimony, which will alter the appearance without preventing the face from being seen. Officers will be able to testify seated.
“It stands to reason that tailing agents will always be able to alter their appearance – even in extreme ways – during future tailing operations. The disguises are undoubtedly already instruments of their trade, ”concludes the magistrate.
The public will be excluded as witnesses enter and leave the room, as well as by videoconference during testimony.
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