In June, an Ontario Court justice dismissed impaired driving charges against a Sikh man after his turban fell off during an encounter with Peel Region police.
Ontario Court Justice Jill Copeland said the failure to return Sardul Singh’s turban while he was in custody constituted a charter breach.
Singh was stopped by Peel police under suspicion of being under the influence after a RIDE check in December of 2014. Upon being taken into custody and being placed into a police cruiser, Singh’s turban fell off his head.
Copeland’s ruling claimed that the defendant’s right to freedom of religion was breached by police, and that Singh’s breath sample evidence should be excluded because its admission would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
The incident is a catalyst for Peel Regional police Chief Jennifer Evans who is ordering a review of the decision and the officer’s conduct.
“I am concerned by the negative impact that this incident and my officer’s actions have had on members within our community.” said Evans “The purpose of police directives is to set out these responsibilities expected of the officers. We have since reinforced the importance of this directive to ensure that this type of mistake does not occur in the future.”
Evans revealed that Peel Regional Police have had a directive in place since 2012 regarding the proper search and handling of religious items, and is reminding officers of the great importance in keeping with the freedom of religious rights.