A Montreal police officer committed a “highly inappropriate” act by using the stamp and signature of a judge without his knowledge to fabricate a false judicial document used during an investigation targeting a murderer.
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This is what our Investigation Office learned in a judgment by Judge Marc David, of the Superior Court, in the case of Frédérick Silva, a killer in the pay of organized crime who was sentenced to life imprisonment. last February for three murders committed in 2018.
This decision, made before the start of Silva's trial last summer, was subject to a publication ban, which was however lifted on Friday at the Montreal courthouse.
Without concluding that such a police procedure was illegal, Judge David denounced the "disgraceful" behavior and the "lack of ethics" shown by agent Guillaume Joly-Tessier, of the the City of Montreal (SPVM), in this investigation.
A first for the SPVM
Frédérick Silva was considered one of the 10 most wanted criminals in Quebec and his capture had been raised to the top of the SPVM's priorities, as our Investigation Bureau had reported for the first time in the winter of 2019.
The SPVM went all out to find the suspect on the run, using in particular an investigative technique unprecedented in its history, according to the court.
The police used a fake judicial authorization (or warrant) to compel a witness to cooperate with their investigation. And this, in all legality according to Judge David.
On February 15, 2019, agent Joly-Tessier therefore went to the Montreal courthouse in order to have this false warrant signed by a justice of the peace.
After reviewing the documents submitted by the agent, however, Justice of the Peace Josée De Carufel refused to affix her signature to the false warrant, advising him that he should use another procedure.
This is where the agent made a “rash” gesture, according to the court.
“At a certain point during the meeting, the judge left her office. Agent Joly-Tessier then takes the judge's judicial stamp from his desk and stamps the false judicial authorization, ”explains Judge David.
After leaving the courthouse, the police officer completed the fabrication of his false warrant by proceeding with what he called “tinkering”.
“To do this, he cuts out the judge's signature from another judicial authorization he had in his possession. He then sticks the signature on the authorization on which he had affixed the stamp of the judge. Finally, he adds an invented mandate number in the appropriate place and makes a photocopy of the document so that it looks credible, ”continues the judge.
The Defense, provided by Me Danièle Roy, called for a stay of proceedings against Silva, arguing that several means used by the police to apprehend his client were abusive, including the conduct of agent Joly-Tessier. But without success.
“The applicant pleads that the use of the stamp of the justice of the peace by agent Joly-Tessier constitutes theft. However, even accepting this premise, the Court considers that the action taken by Agent Joly-Tessier cannot be qualified as an abuse of process in the specific context of this case,” concluded Judge David, rejecting the motion.
He considered that, "without diminishing the reprehensible character of the gesture made by agent Joly-Tessier", the latter "was not animated by any malicious intention (...) when he stole the stamp of the judge of peace without his knowledge.
On the one hand, the magistrate concedes that it is “worrying” that “the police are borrowing the authority of a judge” in such a way. But on the other, he believes it was justifiable as a means of investigation.
“The crimes that are the subject [of this] investigation are the most serious of the Criminal Code, he argued. They are committed continuously while the applicant is on the run and in circumstances that put public safety at risk. Making and using a 'false' document (...) is therefore an act proportional to the crimes under investigation.”
Worrying but allowed
When carrying out certain means of investigation, the police may be authorized to commit certain acts which would otherwise be of a nature to constitute a criminal offence.
This procedure, which is relatively unknown to the public, is governed by section 25.1 of the Criminal Code, which has been in force in Canada since 2002 following the adoption of Bill C-24.
The police call this investigative technique a “C-24”.
It can be authorized directly by the staff of a police force, without going through the court.
A total of 387 authorizations to commit a "C-24" were granted by the leaders of the police forces of Quebec between 2003 and 2020, according to data obtained by our Bureau of investigation from the Ministry of Public Security.
However, Judge David took advantage of his decision to demand that Ottawa amend the Criminal Code so that the use of a false judicial authorization as a technique of police investigation becomes “mandatory” approved by a judge beforehand, which does not is not the case at present.
According to him, “the fact that such an exceptional investigative technique is subject to the sole discretion of a senior official, in this case a senior member of a police force, is a source of concern”.