A paraplegic man whose treatment by Abbotsford Police in 2007 was declared by a B.C. Supreme Court judge as “outrageous, egregious and inexcusable” is suing the department for damages.
Among the claims being made by Ryan Austin Moonie, 37, in the civil suit, filed Nov. 27 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, is that after his wheelchair was taken away from him while he was in a detention cell following his arrest, he was denied access to bathroom facilities.
He states that he then soiled himself and was not given a change of clothes before having to appear in court the following morning.
Moonie also states that he was not provided with the majority of his medication, was not provided with bathroom supplies despite repeated requests, was not permitted to call his father for assistance, and was moved around the detachment in an office chair rather than a wheelchair.
These claims were the subject of a B.C. Supreme Court decision, released publicly in October, which threw out all drug and weapons charges that Moonie faced following his 2007 arrest. The Crown has not appealed the decision.
Justice Kathleen Ker ruled that Moonie’s charter rights were breached during a 17-hour period that included his arrest and his time in the Abbotsford Police Department’s custody.
In her decision, Ker referred to the APD as “a place that time forgot” and stated such actions are “inexcusable in the 21st century.”
“The treatment Mr. Moonie received while in the custody of the APD fell not only below general community standards of decency, but it also reflects treatment that denied Mr. Moonie any modicum of respect for his inherent dignity and value as a human being,” she added.
Moonie was detained and arrested on Nov. 27, 2007 after police obtained a warrant to search his Abbotsford home in relation to a suspected marijuana grow-op.
According to the court documents, among the items seized by police were 850 pot plants, a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a loaded .22 calibre handgun, a loaded rifle and two bags containing a total of almost 500 grams of marijuana.
While he was being detained, Moonie was left sitting outside in his wheelchair in sub-zero temperatures for 40 minutes, according to the court documents.
After being transported to the APD lockup and booked into a cell on an outstanding warrant from Vancouver, his wheelchair and transfer board were taken away.
Over the next several hours, he made several requests to use the toilet, and asked to contact his father to obtain his bathroom supplies, including a raised toilet seat. These requests were not met, Ker stated in her decision.
Instead, Moonie, who had been paralyzed in a 2004 motorcycle crash, was provided with only a styrofoam cup into which to empty his catheter. He then had to throw his urine from the cup towards the toilet area in an effort to empty it, Ker said.
Early the next morning, an officer arrived to transport Moonie from his cell for his bail hearing, and Moonie advised him that he had soiled himself during the night. He requested clean clothes but was told there were none available, Ker stated.
Ker said Moonie was not given access to his wheelchair and was moved from his cell to the loading bay in an office chair with wheels. There was no ramp available, and the officers tried to carry Moonie into the back of the sheriff’s van but were unable to do so.
He was returned to his cell, and was then transported in his wheelchair almost two hours later to be taken to court in an APD patrol car.
Moonie had to appear in court in his soiled clothing, Ker said.
She said although the APD’s treatment of Moonie was “not deliberate or based on any malicious intent,” it constituted a “level of negligence bordering on recklessness.”
In his civil suit, Moonie is seeking general, aggravated, special and exemplary damages, as well as special costs.
Const. Ian MacDonald could not comment on the civil lawsuit, but in relation to the Supreme Court case, said the APD has changed its procedures and protocols in the detention area in relation to detainees accessing medication and medical supplies.
A wheelchair ramp has since been installed in the loading bay, and a wheelchair has been acquired for the cells area.
Additionally, recommendations have been made in regards to staff training that would, in part, include the treatment of detainees with disabilities. Details on the training, and exactly what it will encompass, are still being finalized, MacDonald said.
He said although it is difficult to hear the judge’s comments, the APD appreciates receiving them, accepts the criticism, and endeavours to make changes.
“At the end of the day, we are responsible for what happened in 2007, and we are sorry that this took place.”