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Heavy-handed ex-RUC officer is guilty over G20 Toronto protests

By Deborah McAleese

Published 05/10/2015

Misconduct: Mark Fenton
Misconduct: Mark Fenton

A former RUC officer who is currently a senior commander with Toronto Police has been found guilty of misconduct for his actions during the G20 summit in Canada five years ago.

Superintendent Mark Fenton is awaiting sentence and could be sacked after he was found guilty at a police disciplinary tribunal of discreditable conduct and unlawful arrest in relation to his actions during the chaotic G20 summit in Toronto in 2010.

Hundreds of protesters and innocent bystanders were arrested and detained that weekend under Fenton's command. He also twice ordered the controversial tactic of "kettling" - at one stage during a torrential downpour.

Kettling is used to control large crowds during protests and involves the formation of large cordons of police officers, who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are left only one choice of exit controlled by the police or are completely prevented from leaving, with the effect of denying them access to food, water and toilet facilities.

The judge at Fenton's disciplinary hearing found that his decision to order mass arrests "demonstrated a lack of understanding of the right to protest". He also found that Fenton's decision to box in protesters through kettling was too extreme.

Fenton, who served with the RUC, left Northern Ireland for Canada three decades ago. He has been with Toronto Police for 27 years.

He was one of the senior officers in charge of the policing operation at the Toronto G20 event, which saw outbreaks of rioting and street violence.

During his disciplinary hearing, Fenton told the judge that the chaos of the G20 had reminded him of violence in Northern Ireland, calling the protesters "terrorists".

The judge said that Fenton's "use of power was not rationally connected to the purported risk to be managed" and found him guilty of unlawful arrest for each kettling incident.

He also found Fenton guilty of discreditable conduct for keeping hundreds of people boxed in during a thunderstorm. When the weather "turned ugly" Fenton had the responsibility to ensure that prisoners had adequate protection from the elements, the judge ruled.

Fenton is due to be sentenced in December. The sentence could range from reprimand to dismissal.

Following the conviction, his lawyer said Fenton "would like to personally apologise to all those innocent parties who were negatively affected".

His lawyer added that Fenton "had a very difficult job during the G20 trying to control unprecedented violence and property damage that was occurring in the city of Toronto. He had to make quick decisions and judgment calls to protect the city".

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