When Marget Lieder accidentally dialed 9-1-1, while meaning to dial 4-1-1 for information, she thought nothing of simply hanging up and dialing again – but that was before a group of officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police broke down her door and arrested her and her partner.
On the evening of Oct. 25, Lieder, who lives in North Vancouver, B.C., was drinking wine with her partner, Larry Pierce, and a house guest when she misdialed the information number and reached emergency services instead. After immediately hanging up the phone, the police called her back to say that 2 officers were being sent to her home to confirm that she was not in danger. They would, she was told, search her house when they arrived.
“I don’t want my privacy to be invaded just because I misdial a number,” she explained to the officer on the telephone.
Lieder refused to allow the officers who arrived into her home, speaking to them only on the porch from where they could see “the peaceful atmosphere” in her living room.
“They didn’t have a search warrant and they didn’t have anything to do in my house,” she told the North Shore News.
Assuring the two officers nothing was amiss, Lieder returned inside and her guest left shortly afterwards.
Marget Leider examines damaged door (Courtesy , North Shore News)
The Mounties, reinforced by three more officers, insisted on inspecting Lieder’s home and when she did not open the door for them, they broke it down and arrested her and Pierce for obstruction of justice.
While Lieder wasn’t injured, Pierce was not so lucky.
“I was sitting on the couch. They stuck a Taser in my face, threatening me with 50,000 volts,” he said. “They threw me on the floor, twisted my left arm. A police officer stuck his knee into my ribs and jumped on me.”
According to Pierce, two of his ribs were cracked.
Officers began recording them immediately, even though they had not been read their rights, the pair said. Pierce was interrogated for over an hour at the jail.
The couple were taken to North Vancouver provincial court the day after their arrest but were released before being called before a judge.
“They arrested me in slippers and a T-shirt,” said Pierce. “After Crown counsel told them to let me go, they just shoved me out in the rain. I had 43 cents in my pocket.”
Pierce, who is a well-known Vancouver lawyer has said the couple plan to sue and have asked authorities to preserve all tapes and records associated with the case.
“The list is pretty long for what we can sue them for,” he said, referring specifically to false arrest, false imprisonment, trespass and assault.
Const. John MacAdam, a spokesman for the North Vancouver RCMP, said he could not comment on the incident but defended the practice of searching homes after a 9-1-1 caller hangs up the phone, noting that it is common for a spousal abuse victim to say nothing is wrong after police respond to a call.
“When a 9-1-1 call has been placed, whether or not it is mistaken, we have the right to attend that residence and to search that residence to make sure that the safety of everyone is confirmed,” MacAdam said, citing a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling. “In most cases people are going to understand our job and why we are in the residence. They understand that we have to have a quick look.”
The court ruling said police have authority to investigate 9-1-1 calls, but their right to enter callers’ homes depends on the situation and can only be for the purpose of protecting life and safety.
Pierce is not convinced.
“If that’s the way they are going to make everyone safe, the jails will be full,” he said.