Toronto lawyer suing Peel Police for $1.5 million
TORONTO – A Toronto lawyer once accused of smuggling drugs into a local courthouse and arrested in front of colleagues and clients is suing police for malicious prosecution, her attorney said Friday.
Laura Liscio filed a defamation lawsuit last month seeking $1.5 million in damages from the Peel Regional Police Service, but is planning to amend the claim now that all criminal charges have been dropped.
Liscio’s lawyer, Louis Sokolov, said new documents will be filed in the coming weeks alleging the police force conducted a negligent investigation and engaged in a malicious prosecution. He expects that Liscio will also seek higher financial compensation, he added.
“Peel Regional Police arrested Ms. Liscio without reasonable cause to do so,” Sokolov said, summarizing allegations laid out in a statement of claim. “They arrested her in a manner that was designed to be humiliating to her…and then they proceeded to publish a number of press releases that were false and malicious and intended to, and in fact did, damage her reputation.”
Peel police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The force’s lawyer, Eugene Mazzuca, declined to offer any comments since the matter was before the court. No statement of defence has been filed.
Liscio’s statement of claim alleges that her professional reputation as a criminal lawyer was irreparably damaged on Feb. 12, 2015, as she was preparing to defend a client in the courthouse in Brampton, Ont.
According to the statement, Liscio had obtained permission to bring a change of clothes for her client and collected the garments from one of his friends before the trial was to get underway.
When court inspectors examined the clothing, however, they found marijuana hidden in the hollowed-out heels of shoes.
Shortly after this discovery, the statement said Liscio was arrested in the courtroom, handcuffed and marched through the courthouse in full view of the public. The statement alleges that officers informed Liscio that they had instructions to conduct the arrest in this way and ignored pleas to cover the handcuffs and walk her through a more discreet route.
After allowing her to contact her lawyer, the suit alleges police repeated the “perp walk” by leading a handcuffed Liscio back through the courthouse to a marked police car.
Peel Police originally issued two press releases offering a different version of events, but would later retract some of those details.
The force initially said that Liscio was escorted through the courthouse without handcuffs and later taken, in civilian clothes, to an unmarked cruiser.
Days later, the force issued a correction acknowledging that Liscio was arrested in her court attire, led from the courtroom in handcuffs, then later taken to a marked police vehicle.
Sokolov said the correction, which he described as incomplete, only made Liscio’s situation worse.
“Although they made some corrections, they never did anything that detracted from the damage that they did to her reputation,” he said. “In fact, by republishing their press releases, they exacerbated it.”
Liscio was ultimately charged with drug possession, trafficking, obstructing justice and breach of trust.
Crown attorneys determined there was no reasonable prospect of conviction on the charges and withdrew the charges Thursday.
© 2015 The Canadian Press