A Montreal police officer committed a “highly inappropriate” act by using a judge’s stamp and signature without his knowledge to fabricate a false court document used during an investigation into a murderer.
• Also read: Hitman gets life imprisonment for three murders
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This is what our Bureau of Investigation learned in a ruling by Superior Court Judge Marc David in the case of Frédérick Silva, a hired killer for organized crime who was sentenced to life imprisonment for three murders last February 2018.
That decision, made before Silva’s trial began last summer, was the subject of a publication ban but it was overturned Friday at the Montreal courthouse.
Without concluding that such a police procedure was illegal, Judge David condemned the “disgraceful” conduct and “lack of ethics” exhibited by City of Montreal (SPVM) agent Guillaume Joly-Tessier in this investigation.
A first for the SPVM
Frédérick Silva was listed as one of Quebec’s top 10 most wanted criminals, and his capture had been placed at the top of the SPVM’s priorities, our investigative office first reported in the winter of 2019.
The SPVM pulled out all the stops to find the suspect on the run, using an investigative technique unprecedented in its history, the court said.
Police used a fake court order (or warrant) to force a witness to cooperate with their investigation. And this according to Judge David in all legality.
Therefore, on February 15, 2019, Agent Joly-Tessier went to the Montreal courthouse to have this bogus warrant signed by a justice of the peace.
However, after reviewing the documents submitted by the agent, Justice of the Peace Josée De Carufel refused to put her signature on the false arrest warrant and advised him to use a different procedure.
Here, according to the court, the agent made an “imprudent” gesture.
“At some point during the meeting, the judge left her office. Agent Joly-Tessier then takes the judge’s court stamp from his desk and stamps the false warrant,” explains Judge David.
Photo courtesy of the court
“Do it yourself”
After exiting the courthouse, the officer completed the forgery of his bogus warrant by doing what he called “handicrafts.”
“To do this, he cuts out the judge’s signature from another judicial power of attorney in his possession. He then sticks the signature on the power of attorney on which he has affixed the judge’s stamp. Finally, he adds a fictitious mandate number in the appropriate place and makes a photocopy of the document so that it appears credible,” the judge continued.
The defense, provided by Me Danièle Roy, called for a stay of proceedings against Silva, arguing that several means used by police to arrest his client were abusive, including the behavior of agent Joly-Tessier. But without success.
“The applicant alleges that Agent Joly-Tessier’s use of the magistrate’s stamp constitutes theft. But even assuming that premise, the court believes that the actions taken by Agent Joly-Tessier cannot be qualified as an abuse of procedure in the specific context of this case,” concluded Judge David, denying the motion.
He considered that “without detracting from the reprehensible character of agent Joly-Tessier’s gesture”, he “was not animated by any malicious intent (…) when he stole the magistrate’s stamp without his knowledge.”
On the one hand, the magistrate admits that it is “worrying” that “the police are thus borrowing the authority of a judge”. But on the other hand, he thinks it’s justifiable as an investigative tool.
“The crimes that are the object [de cette] Investigations are the most serious in the penal code, he argued. They are committed continuously while the applicant is on the run and in circumstances that endanger public safety. The making and use of a “false” document (…) is therefore an act proportional to the crimes under investigation.”
- Hear the chronicle of Nicole Gibeault, retired judge, from 03:31 on Geneviève Pettersen’s microphone on QUB radio:
Worrying but allowed
In conducting certain investigative measures, the police may be authorized to commit certain acts that would otherwise be criminal.
This practice, relatively unknown to the general public, is governed by Section 25.1 of the Criminal Code, which has been in effect in Canada since 2002 following the passage of Bill C-24.
The police call this investigative technique “C-24”.
It can be authorized directly by the staff of a police agency without going through a court.
According to data our investigative office received from the Department of Public Safety, between 2003 and 2020, a total of 387 permits to inspect a “C-24” were issued by leaders of the Quebec Police Force.
However, Judge David used his decision to require Ottawa to amend the Criminal Code so that the use of false court authorization as a police investigation technique becomes “mandatory” and requires prior approval by a judge, which Gift does not.
According to him, “the fact that such an extraordinary investigative technique is subject to the sole discretion of a senior official, in this case a senior member of a police force, is a matter of concern.”