Ontario’s corrections ministry has plans to increase the surveillance video retention policy from 60 days to 180 or 360 days. The decision was taken when an inmate facing drug possession sentence had to face a reduced jail term because jail surveillance video was deleted.
Ontario’s Community Safety and Correctional Services spokesperson Andrew Morrison said in an email that government was aware of the case, the latest hearing and the reduction of jail term due to lack of video evidence. He added that the Ministry has begun a review of its policy related to retention/preservation of video surveillance and this case will help inform the review.
The current policy at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC), deleting surveillance video after 60 days, is “ridiculous,” London lawyer Kevin Egan said.
That hardly gives enough time to inmates who want to blow the whistle on incidents or crimes, he said.
“Inmates often feel intimidated speaking out when they are in jail and often only come forward when they’ve been released.”
With many people behind bars for more than 60 days, the system has to build in more time to keep surveillance video, Egan said.
The trial details are as follows- In December 2014, Jose Lima, a jail inmate was charged after Methamphetamine, hydromophone and marijuana was found in his laundry towel. In December 2015, Justice Jonathan George found Lima guilty of drug possession in the argument, but then heard arguments about how London Police and EMDC handled the case.
London police waited five months, and for Lima to appear in court on another matter, to charge him for possession.
By the time they did that, EMDC had deleted video surveillance of Lima in the jail that might have shed light on the case.
The jail had a surveillance video which captured the entirety of Lima’s interactions with staff and other inmates, from the point he exited the transport vehicle and entered the institution. The evidence was relevant and could have proved the inmate guilty.
But since, jail surveillance laws retain videos for only 60 days, vital evidence against the inmate was knocked out in right time. Lima’s lawyer, Geoffrey Snow, argued in court that the delay and resulting destruction of evidence violated his client’s rights under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On this basis, Justice George agreed to reduce Lima’s sentence to 90 days.
If video evidence would have been available, the inmate would have got at least 2 years of rigorous imprisonment as per law.
For this reason, the Ontario’s corrections ministry is planning to increase the current video retention policy of surveillance video from 60 days to atleast 6 months to a year.
The moment this policy comes into affect, it will apply across whole of Canada.