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Top prosecutor ends Indigenous man's case claiming excessive force by Edmonton police officer

An Indigenous man's pursuit of private prosecution of an Edmonton police officer who caused him long-term injury has been stopped by Alberta's top prosecutor.

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service says Pacey Dumas' case against Edmonton Police Service Const. Ben Todd does not meet its standards for prosecution, as a conviction would require convincing the court beyond a reasonable doubt that Todd's force was excessive.

"This is necessarily a very high burden to meet," the ACPS told CTV News Edmonton in a statement on Tuesday.

Chief prosecutor Sarah Langley directed the court on Friday to stay the case, as per the attorney general's instruction, according to court documents shared with CTV News Edmonton by Dumas' lawyer, Heather Steinke-Attia.

Steinke-Attia says the Crown has "again blocked all access to justice for Pacey and his family."

"It goes without saying the timing of the stay letter is highly insensitive and yet another blow to this Indigenous young man," she said. "It further highlights there is much work still to be done to increase trust and transparency of our government officials."

Saturday was Canada's National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

In December 2020, Todd kicked Pacey Dumas in the head, leaving the then-18-year-old with a hole in his skull and "long-lasting if not permanent injuries," the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) found.

The police watchdog referred the case to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, concluding there were "reasonable grounds that an offence may have been committed." However, prosecutors recommended that no charges be laid after reviewing the file with a third party and finding for the first time there was not a reasonable likelihood of conviction.

Steinke-Attia told CTV News Edmonton on Tuesday that while the decision to pursue prosecution, whether public or private, is ultimately up to crown prosecutors – who don't have to provide explanations for such decisions – she believes the case "cries out for transparency and accountability" given the level of violence and force allegedly used by the officer.

"I can tell you based on the number of lawyers and others qualified in use of force and in criminal law who have reached out to me to say this is unacceptable, that it's unfathomable that this is happening," Steinke-Attia said.

"Again, and again, the Crown is comfortable not putting this into a court of law. Let a judge decide. What's the harm in letting (a judge) decide? Giving the officers who were involved in this case the opportunity to explain themselves to try and justify their actions and allow a court to decide instead of subjecting them to the court of public opinion.

"This process isn't fair to the officers, either. They should be given an opportunity to address their actions, their training, and justify what they did if they can."

In September, Dumas formally declared in court information "in support of an application for private prosecution." A hearing to present evidence was scheduled for Oct. 13. Had the hearing happened, a judge would have decided if the officer should be charged criminally.

"The ACPS standard for prosecution remains the same whether a charge is laid by law enforcement or via a private information," the ACPS said on Tuesday.

Steinke-Attia said they would be looking for other legal options to get his case before a judge.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nicole Weisberg Top Stories

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