Crime, justice and government secrecy: The investigation no one wants to talk about (Chapter One Starts Here)
When a judge examined the case of two Hamilton men convicted for a mob hit, he was horrified by what he found. That was just the beginning. The Spectator’s Steve Buist exposes what the government still refuses to discuss. Railroaded: A Spectator True Crime Exclusive.
For 16 years, the Ontario government has fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to keep secret the details of how police investigated the police in the case of two Hamilton men wrongfully convicted of killing a Toronto mobster in 1983.
The secrecy ends now.
For the first time, The Spectator reveals details from a 318-page report prepared by the Ontario Provincial Police in 1998 that has never been made fully public by the province’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. The OPP was called in to investigate the Halton and Hamilton police services and the Halton Crown attorney after a judge blasted them for deliberately and systematically withholding evidence in the 1991 trial of Dennis Monaghan and Graham Court.
The two men were convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of Domenic Racco, whose bullet-riddled body was found on an abandoned railway track in Milton. Six years later following a successful appeal, Justice Stephen Glithero tossed out the murder charges against Court and Monaghan after ruling it would be impossible for the two men to receive a fair trial in light of the abusive conduct by the police and the Crown.
Now, a lengthy Spectator investigation shows the OPP’s criminal probe of the police and Crown was superficial and inadequate and, in interviews, OPP investigators asked softball, leading questions.
[T]he Spectator’s findings are shocking and raise a number of serious concerns: the disturbing lack of answers to the troubling issues highlighted by the judge; the apparent inability of police to effectively investigate other police officers; and the utter toothlessness of the legislation governing access to public information.
In September, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner issued an extraordinary ruling, announcing it was throwing in the towel in its fight to stop the ministry from ignoring previous orders to provide access to the OPP report.
Stunningly, the IPC announced there is no legal way to force the ministry to abide by earlier rulings regarding public access to the document.
“The scandal is they managed to avoid an investigation back then with total impunity, avoid reporting on it with total impunity, and today, avoid complying with the IPC’s ruling with, it seems, total impunity,” said Jessica Orkin, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Criminal Lawyers’ Association, which has been fighting in court for 16 years to get full access to the OPP report.
The Spectator has obtained an unedited version of the entire 318-page document independent of this court battle.
- The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services declined to comment.
- The OPP did not respond to numerous interview requests made over a three-week period.
- Monaghan, now 56, spent nearly seven years in jail before Glithero stayed the Racco murder charge against him.
“The inquiry, or whatever you call it, was and is a joke,” said Monaghan. “I have always expressed my concerns about the police investigating the police.
“There should be someone to look into this further and perhaps a consideration, if not a recommendation, for independent agencies to conduct inquiries.”
[C]ourt was deported to England 17 years ago due to the Racco murder conviction, in addition to other criminal charges including manslaughter. He is not allowed back in Canada.
“I think that if an independent board is created to police the police and investigate any allegations of wrongdoing by the justice system, it may prevent future manipulation of evidence,” Court said, now 59.
“Although a great deal of time has elapsed and it may not benefit me directly, I feel that it is never too late.”
Award-winning investigative journalist Steve Buist is the creator of The Spectator’s highly acclaimed Code Red project. He has won 3 National Newspaper Awards, been named Canada’s investigative journalist of the year 3 times and Ontario’s journalist of the year 4 times.
About the Photographer, Barry Gray (left)
Award-winning photojournalist Barry Gray has been with The Spectator for 28 years, covering everything from Grey Cups to royal visits. He has worked on a variety of nationally acclaimed projects, including A Pig’s Tale.