Laying a Private Information: Who will police the police?
The laying of a private information, or, the charging of an individual with the assistance of a Justice of the Peace and not the police is a rare move seen in Criminal Courts. Often reserved for neighbour disputes the police don’t take seriously enough for proud owners of unnaturally healthy azalea bushes, private informations also represent a way for citizens to challenge the discretion of the police and the courts.
For a charge to be laid criminally, a police officers “swears an information.” This generates the charging document that can be used to bring a person before the courts. So, typically an officer will gather evidence arrest a person, then visit a J.P. They advise of the grounds of arrest and information is sworn.
But what if the officers that attend at your neighbour dispute refuse to charge the drunken louts next door with causing a disturbance? They tell you to “just ask nicely.” You ask nicely for weeks without reprieve. Weeks pass and you just cannot take another round of drunken cherades with a gangster rap soundtrack. Taking Justice into your own hands does not sound like a bad idea.
Armed with these grounds (your complaints, nicely documented with dates and times) you visit your local courthouse and see a J.P. Once the information is sworn the not so great neighbours are compelled to attend court. Success! But then what? You demand satisfaction, but what form does it take?
The matter continues before the courts in the usual course. Eventually, a hearing to screen the matter called a pre-enquete is held before the matter moves forward. If you are successful at this stage trial is set and you get to have your day in court. Most likely, a Judge hearing evidence will turn to the parties and say: can’t we all just get along?
But what if your complaint is with the police?
Recently a young lady caught in the cross fire and shot by the Peel Regional Police laid a private information against the cop that shot her through her window. The cops were cleared criminally and by the SIU. The authorities have already determined that they were acting within their proper authority during the shootout.
This is a rare take on an already rarely used mechanism in the courts. However, what if citizens took a more active role in deciding what disputes go before the courts? Police often use discretion in deciding who to charge and for what. But a private information creates a review mechanism for these decisions.
Whether you are shot in the back by a police officer, or terrorized by your neighbours, it is best to consult a criminal lawyer before laying a private information. These matters also have a civil, or monetary, component. However a criminal information in place before bringing a civil matter can bring credibility and teeth to your civil claim. Only a criminal lawyer will accurately know how to get this matter before the courts.