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Bashing award against Toronto police upheld

The Ontario Court of Appeal has unanimously upheld a ruling against the Toronto Police Service for beating and falsely arresting Robert Schisler in Toronto’s gay village in 1999.

Schisler was awarded $452,000 in damages in 2004 after plainclothes police interrupted a date he was having with a hustler by smashing the window of his van, pulling him out, and kicking and punching him while calling him “cocksucker” and “faggot.”

He was given neither medical attention nor water while in custody, even though he was bleeding and in pain. He was released after three hours, and charges of dangerous driving and resisting arrest were eventually dropped.

The case hinged on a 911 call made by Jackie Wilson who witnessed the incident and called for help, not suspecting that Schisler’s attackers were police officers.

Schisler’s lawyer, Hedy Epstein, has called for an official inquiry into conduct by police during the incident.

“Not only was Mr Schisler beaten and subjected to homophobic slurs, but he was falsely arrested to cover up the actions of certain police officers,” says Epstein. “That cover-up continued within the institution and included high-ranking officers.”

Police have 60 days to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. If they don’t, the payout could be one of the largest damage claims ever awarded against the police in Canada.

“At this point it is not just about the money but to help other people from being victimized by the police in a similar fashion,” says Schisler.