An Ontario court has ruled that video of an interview Toronto police conducted with serial killer Bruce McArthur must be released to media organizations, making it the sole first-hand look the public has had at police interactions with McArthur.
That ruling comes weeks after a panel of judges decided the video was improperly withdrawn at a disciplinary hearing for an officer who was involved in the decision to let McArthur go in 2016, after which he would go on to kill at least two of his eight known victims.
In its written reasons, the court said the video was made the subject of a publication ban without proper process and improperly withdrawn by both sides at the hearing.
“To grant the publication ban without applying the correct test and then to allow the exhibit to be withdrawn after the applicants sought to challenge the publication ban engaged openness principles, was an error in principle and plainly wrong,” according to the ruling.
CBC News was among the news organizations that had argued for the release of the 11-minute interview portion of the video, in which Toronto police Sgt. Paul Gauthier interviewed McArthur after a man reported McArthur had violently choked him during a sexual encounter.
You can watch a section of that interview in the clip below.
Gauthier was previously charged with insubordination and neglect of duty under the Police Services Act stemming from his handling of the case. He was found not guilty of those two disciplinary charges at a hearing last August.
McArthur will be eligible to apply for parole after spending at least 25 years in prison, and will be 91 years old at that time.
In 2016, McArthur went to police on his own to tell his story of what happened with the choking incident and he was arrested for assault at the local division shortly before the video interview.
At one point in the video, Gauthier asks McArthur if “anything like this ever happened before where things got out of hand?” to which McArthur mumbles before saying, “No, not that quickly. Not, you know, just like that.”
Gauthier then asks, “Things have never gotten violent?” McArthur responds no, and Gauthier then quickly says, “No? Okay.”
McArthur was released without facing charges.
During Gauthier’s disciplinary hearing, the media had asked for a copy of the victim’s video statement — but the prosecution and Gauthier’s defence withdrew it after entering it as evidence.
Gauthier’s lawyer, Lawrence Gridin, argued during a previous hearing last month that the open courts principle shouldn’t apply to this case, as the video was never seen by a trier of fact at Gauthier’s Police Services Act hearing, and wasn’t used in deciding the case.
“As interesting as it may be … to have the public scrutinize the police investigation, that has zero to do with the open courts principle,” he said.
Toronto Police lawyer Mattison Chinneck made similar arguments, saying the decision to not use the video was only part of administrative proceedings, and not the hearing itself. Chinneck also argued that the video contains sensitive information about what went on between McArthur and the victim.
In the end, the court ruled in favour of the video’s release, with a publication ban on the victim’s identity.