Calls for public inquiry after Hamilton police detain journalists

Hamilton Police file photo.
Hamilton Police file photo. Hamilton Police Service

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 17, David Ritchie entered into a peace bond, which will be in effect for 12 months. As part of the bond he must complete 12.5 hours of community service and make a $250 donation. According to a statement by Hamilton Police, the “accused accepted responsibility for the offence of obstructing a peace officer.”

A review is underway after the arrest of two journalists at the scene of a fatal accident in Waterdown.

Global News cameraman Jeremy Cohn and freelance reporter Dave Ritchie were detained by Hamilton Police officers Tuesday evening after responding to the area of Evans Road, near Dundas Street East.

That’s where a 10-year-old girl was struck and killed by a van.

Cohn was released without charge, but Ritchie is charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest and will be in court on June 15.

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Hamilton Police Services Board Chair Lloyd Ferguson says he can’t say much about a matter that is before the courts.

“We just got to let it run through the process and let the courts deal with it first, and if any third party has a complaint, send it off to OIPRD (Office of the Independent Police Review Director),” said Ferguson.

Police Services Board member Terry Whitehead has indicated he may raise the issue at the next meeting on June 16.

The group Canadian Journalists For Free Expression is calling for an “immediate public inquiry” after two journalists were arrested by Hamilton police at the scene of a fatal crash in Waterdown.

READ MORE: Girl, 10, dies after being struck by vehicle in Hamilton’s west end

A statement from Canadian Journalists For Free Expression president Alice Klein — addressed to Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Police Chief Eric Girt — calls on Police “to drop the charges against Ritchie and demand an immediate public inquiry into the circumstances which lead to the forceful detention and arrest of members of the media.”

Police Chief Eric Girt has issued a statement — saying he takes “the arrest of any member of the media seriously” and is reviewing the incident.

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Statement from Chief of Police Eric Girt – Hamilton Police Service

In the early evening hours of Tuesday, May 16, 2017, members of the Hamilton Police Service and other emergency personnel were dispatched and responded to investigate a report of a serious motor vehicle collision involving a child in Waterdown Ontario. It became apparent that the child was suffering from life-threating injuries. Ultimately, the 10 year old girl succumbed to her injuries.

This is a tragic incident for the family and the entire community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the child at this time.

During the scene management of this fatal motor vehicle collision investigation, there were interactions between a member of the Hamilton Police Service and members of the media responding to the scene. As a result of these interactions, two individuals were arrested. One of the individuals was released unconditionally, while another was charged with Obstruct a Peace Officer and Resisting Arrest. First appearance is scheduled for June 15, 2017 at 9:00 am at the John Sopinka Courthouse Room #100. As the matter is now before the courts, no further comment will be made in order to respect the court proceedings.

As Chief of Police, I take the arrest of any member of the media seriously. As a result, I am reviewing this incident in the context of what transpired yesterday.

I encourage anyone who has information or evidence pertaining to the collision investigation or subsequent events to come forward with that information or evidence.

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