News

SIU reopens OPP attack on Good Samaritan

By Tracy McLaughlin, Special to Postmedia Network

Maria (Tony) Farrell leaves Orillia court house. (Tracy McLaughlin photo)

Maria (Tony) Farrell leaves Orillia court house. (Tracy McLaughlin photo)

TORONTO - 

The province’s police watchdog has announced it will reopen the investigation of an OPP officer who a judge said caused “catastrophic injuries” to an Orillia woman who was only trying to help.

But Tonie Farrell says the news comes “too late” to soothe the grandmother of two, who hobbles with a cane and suffers from constant pain from her injuries.

“Why did it take them so long?” Farrell asked Wednesday. “And why didn’t they do a proper investigation in the first place?”

Farrell was initially charged with assaulting Sgt. Russ Watson during an incident outside of a convenience store April 2, 2013. Two people were assaulting an intoxicated woman and Farrell said she was trying to point out the assailants when she was “sucker punched,” “karate kicked” and beaten. She was then cuffed and put into a police cruiser with her leg dangling as she wailed in pain.

She suffered injuries to her face, head, neck, back, a crushed knee that required two operations, and a broken tibia that required a plate and seven screws.

Farrell hired a lawyer and hobbled to court on crutches for months during her trial.

In December, a judge found her not guilty and instead slammed the officer for his brutality.

“Ms. Farrell was acting as a Good Samaritan,” Justice George Beatty said in his ruling. “She had no criminal record and she wanted to assist Sgt. Watson in identifying the assailants.”

The judge also noted Watson was “curt and aggressive” on the witness stand, “indicative of a controlling nature.”

Beatty added: “Sgt. Watson provided no explanation as to how Ms. Farrell’s tibia was broken, or indeed, the reasons for the bruises on her legs, arms and the loss of a tooth.”

While Farrell was in hospital, an investigator with the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) went to her bedside to take photographs of her injuries. But in the end, the SIU found no grounds to press charges, largely because Watson refused to hand over his notes — as is a police officer’s right.

However, on Wednesday the SIU announced it will reopen the investigation.

“As a result of comments made by Justice Beatty in his reasons for judgment regarding the conduct of Sgt. Watson … the SIU has reopened the investigation,” spokesman Monica Hudon said.

The news has failed to cause Farrell joy.

“I can barely walk,” she said. “The pain is constant and I’m not healing well … I was just too old to get that beat up.”

She can only walk with a cane and during the winter she has been trapped indoors.

“I just pray that this time, they do the right thing,” she said.

She says now, when she sees a police cruiser, she is terrified.

From the beginning, Farrell’s lawyer, Angela McLeod, called out for a new investigation. “I’m pleased for Tonie and I hope this will bring renewed faith in the SIU,” McLeod said Wednesday.



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