A Calgary police officer whose criminal charges were stayed because of lost evidence is being sent back to trial after a judge ruled the constable was either “negligent” or “strategic” in pursuing the video at the centre of the dropped charges.
Const. Jacqueline MacNeil is accused of harassing a woman she believed was connected to her boyfriend.
MacNeil, a 16-year member with the Calgary Police Service, was charged with criminal harassment and unwanted communication in late 2019.
Judge tosses case
Because of the year-long gap between the complaint being filed and charges being laid, Det. David Keagan met with the alleged victim in November 2019 to ensure she would still testify in court.
The meeting took place at CPS headquarters in a room that recorded the interaction. Keagan also took notes and disclosed them to MacNeil’s lawyer in February 2020.
But it wasn’t until midway through the 2021 trial, a year later, when MacNeil requested the video. By that time, she was representing herself.
Provincial court Judge Michelle Christopher ruled MacNeil’s Charter rights were violated and issued a stay of proceedings.
MacNeil was negligent or strategic, says judge
The Crown appealed. On Tuesday, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Rodney Jerke overturned that stay and sent the case go back to Christopher.
Given her knowledge of the inner workings of CPS, Jerke ruled MacNeil was either negligent in pursuing disclosure or made a strategic choice not to pursue it until she knew the retention window had passed.
Jerke found Keagan did not intentionally destroy the video; it was preserved for 13 months and overwritten “in the normal course.”
The video, ruled Jerke, was only “marginally relevant” — the bulk of the Crown’s case relied on texts and emails — and the interview was “substantially disclosed” through the detective’s notes.
History of following women, officer notes
In her meeting with Keagan, the alleged victim described MacNeil as a “horrible person” who had a history of following women connected to her boyfriend, also a police officer.
Over a seven-month period in 2018, police allege MacNeil excessively contacted the victim and threatened to ruin her reputation both personally and professionally.
The woman told Keagan she was scared MacNeil would find out where she was living and follow her.
“Previous history of her following other people that [the boyfriend] was involved with,” read the officers notes.
“Is worried that if Jacki gets away with her behaviour, then it will only embolden her to keep being a horrible person. Mentioned [another woman] being subject to her abuse as well,” wrote Keagan.
At the time charges were announced, CPS said MacNeil was on leave unrelated to her legal troubles.
But in an email provided to CBC News, CPS now says the officer “is actively employed by the Calgary Police Service.”
A date for the trial to resume has not yet been set.
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