Winnipeg police criminal checks facing scrutiny at appeal court

Early next year, a judgment is expected from the Manitoba Court of Appeal on the question of just how far law enforcement can go in preparing enhanced criminal record checks.

Winnipeg police criminal checks facing scrutiny at appeal court
Scott Newman of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba says evidence against a Winnipeg man 'was never even tested in court' and the man is entitled to go about his business in society.

Early next year, a judgment is expected from the Manitoba Court of Appeal on the question of just how far law enforcement can go in preparing enhanced criminal record checks.

“Police vulnerable sector checks,” as they are called, generally sound like a pretty good idea. They are enhanced checks into the criminal background of those seeking to work with vulnerable groups, such as children.

But the way the Winnipeg police have been conducting those “enhanced” checks has stirred some controversy. Especially angry is Michael Kalo, a Winnipeg man who lost a job as a school bus driver last year as the result of one of those checks. He is not a lawyer, but he has a long record of bringing a variety of legal matters before the courts.

In the past, Kalo has had no problems with such checks because he has no criminal record. But this time, the police included two charges, one of sexual assault and one of sexual interference. Both grew out of a contentious divorce a decade ago. Both charges were stayed in 2009. There was no conviction and hence no criminal record.

The way the police conducted the “enhanced” checks and rejected procedural and other complaints led Kalo to his latest court actions. Once again representing himself, he has achieved some success. After a hearing before the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, Justice Sheldon Lanchbery ordered the police to thoroughly review the process of including non-convictions in criminal record checks. Lanchbery was sharply critical of the police. He compared their conduct in the matter to “the old adage of being judge, jury and executioner.”

After conducting the review ordered by the court, the police stood by their earlier decision to include the stayed charges in the criminal record check. Kalo appealed, and the matter has now gone before the Court of Appeal. And Kalo, the lonely legal warrior, has received some powerful support.

The Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba has been granted intervenor status in the matter. “The charges were dropped,” says lawyer Scott Newman, speaking on behalf of the CDLA. “The evidence was never even tested in court. . . . He’s entitled to go about his business in society and say he has never been convicted of a criminal offence.”

As is his usual practice, Kalo is representing himself before the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

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