Note: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers.
A Lambton OPP officer has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the province’s Special Investigations Unit after a November collision in Corunna that left an 82-year-old woman with serious injuries.
Ontario’s police watchdog says the incident occurred Nov. 16 when the officer made a left-hand turn and and struck the woman at the intersection of St. Clair Boulevard and St. Clair Parkway. The woman suffered serious fractures of her left leg.
“The Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, has found no reasonable grounds to believe that an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer committed a criminal offence after the officer struck and seriously injured an 82-year-old woman in Corunna,” a news release stated. “Director Martino was satisfied that the officer’s indiscretion may fairly be characterized as a momentary lapse of attention, which, as the case law makes clear, will generally not be enough to ground criminal lability.
“The file has been closed.”
The full director’s report notes that, “an OPP fully marked police vehicle collided with the complainant as she crossed the street. The [officer] had been travelling westbound on St. Clair Boulevard when he turned southbound onto St. Clair Parkway… and struck the complainant.
“At 10:24:58 a.m., without an attempt to slow or stop, the front bumper of the police vehicle struck the complainant’s left leg area,” the report continues. “The collision caused the complainant to roll onto the hood of the police vehicle.
“The police vehicle stopped in the crosswalk facing southbound on St. Clair Parkway; the complainant was thrown from the hood… landed on the roadway approximately three metres to the south of where the police vehicle had stopped.
“The complainant was transported to [Bluewater Health] by Lambton County, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), with a suspected fractured leg.”
The SIU arrived on scene around 4:30 p.m., with three investigators and one forensic investigator assigned to the case.
“The police vehicle was in the southbound lanes of St. Clair Boulevard just south of the southern crosswalk of the intersection,” the report added. “There was blood and a bloody paper towel on the pavement at the front of the police vehicle. There was a small dent on the hood along with what appeared to be a short hair.”
The SIU obtained surveillance video from Ken’s Minimart located at the southeast corner of the intersection, and a dash-camera video from a witness, which was recorded immediately after the collision.
The report says five civilian witnesses were interviewed between Nov. 18 and 24, and the complainant was interviewed on Nov. 25, 2022. The officer was interviewed Dec. 5.
Martino explained that the offence in question would be dangerous driving causing bodily harm, under section 320.13(1) of the Criminal Code.
“As an offence of penal negligence, a simple want of care will not suffice to give rise to liability. Rather, the offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances,” he noted. “In the instant case, the issue is whether there was a want of care in the manner in which the [officer] operated his vehicle, sufficiently egregious to attract criminal sanction, that caused or contributed to the collision.
“In my view, there was not.”
“There is little doubt that the [officer] is responsible for the collision,” Martino added. “The complainant had the right-of-way and the officer was legally obligated to refrain from turning left until he could do so safely.
“That said, I am unable to reasonably conclude on the evidence that the officer’s conduct amounted to a marked departure from a reasonable standard of care in the circumstances.
“He says that he simply did not see the complainant and believed his path was clear as he travelled into the crosswalk.”
Martino added that evidence indicates the officer was not engaged at the time with his mobile workstation.
“I am left to take the [the officer] at his word as there is nothing in the evidence, aside from the collision itself, to suggest that the officer was distracted when he ought not have been.”
The SIU conducts investigations of the circumstances around serious injuries, allegations of sexual assault, firearm discharges at persons, and deaths in cases involving officials — including municipal and provincial police officers.