Jan. 7, 2021, Toronto — A veteran Peel Regional Police officer who was charged with theft stemming from a 2016 on-duty incident was officially acquitted in November 2020.
Sgt. Eric Malone was arrested in November 2018 following allegations made in June 2018 that he was in possession at his home of cash and jewellery related to a robbery investigation he was investigating back in 2016. The investigation of Sgt. Malone was conducted by Peel Police’s Professional Standards Bureau. He was charged with one count of theft under $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000 and one count of breach of trust.
The Robbery Investigation
In April 2016, two men robbed a jewellery store at a mall in Mississauga, Ont., stealing 20 gold chains. They then sold the stolen chains to a jewellery store for approximately $1,500 to $2,000. Sgt. Malone and Const. Adam Holland arrested the men (who later pled guilty to robbery charges). Malone seized the drugs and money from the assailant and Holland recovered the stolen chains from the jewellery store where they were sold.
Malone said he placed the recovered jewellery and money in a temporary property locker in the property room of the Central Robbery Bureau (CRB), where he was assigned. After the robbery investigation, Malone also prepared an Occurrence Report and listed 18 items associated with the robbery but made no mention of the money and jewellery recovered during the investigation.
Testimony at Malone’s Trial
At Sgt. Malone’s trial, Barbara McAlister, his estranged wife, testified that in 2017 she found a number of items underneath her husband’s bed, including an evidence bag (with a case number that matched the robbery) with a large amount U.S. and Canadian money. She then photographed them. Richard Dorling, a close friend of McAlister, then filed a complaint to the PRPF concerning the findings. The PRPF eventually charged Sergeant Malone with the offences of theft over $5,000 and breach of trust.
The trial decision indicates that at the time that Richard Dorling made his complaint to the Peel Police, he was having an affair with Ms. McAlister, Sgt. Malone’s wife. Mr. Dorling was a police officer with the Waterloo Police officer at the time.
The Crown alleged that Sgt. Malone’s omission of the money and jewellery recovered in the Occurrence Report was deliberate to enable him to steal the seized property without anyone knowing.
“There is no question that Sergeant Malone took the evidence bag, presumably with the money recovered from Mr. Brown-Malabre (suspect in the robbery case), from the CRB to his home. The only question is whether he did so intentionally or inadvertently,” wrote Judge Irving W. André in his judgment.
The Crown said the use of the storage unit was a “clear violation of the PRPF’s established policies regarding the storage of money and jewellery” and argued Malone “violated these policies because of a formed intention to steal the jewellery and money recovered.”
Detective Steve Nickson, who worked in the CRB from 2012 to 2017, testified that it was a common accepted practice that the property room was used to store property seized during a police investigation. He said there was no limit on what was stored there or for how long and that he also “signed off” on the Robbery Bureau Property Cash Record (which Malone had prepared in the robbery investigation) but expected the money would be returned to its rightful owner if it had no forensic value.
“Those practices relating to the temporary storage of evidence in the CRB property room constitute a shocking disregard for the PRPF’s directive concerning the storage of evidence following a criminal investigation.”
The Legal Test in Circumstantial Evidence Cases
In his decision to acquit, Justice André wrote that the disregard for the department’s policies may have “not necessarily be the result of any dishonest intentions”, as the practice appeared to be commonplace among officers.
“The Crown’s case against Sergeant Malone is a circumstantial one,” he concluded. “In these circumstances, the legal test to determine whether the Crown has proven the officer’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is whether his guilt is the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the evidence.”
In the analysis of the case, the judge made mention of the tumultuous state of the relationship between Malone and his wife at the time the incident occurred and was reported to police. He found the evidence presented was not sufficient in proving the money was the same as that recovered in the robbery and concluded the Crown had failed to prove, based on the totality of evidence, that Sergeant Malone was “undoubtedly guilty” on the charges. He was acquitted on November 23, 2020.
A full copy of Justice André’s decision is available here.