Local private investigators say there were obvious red flags attached to a recent case that involved a Manitoba judge being followed prior to his ruling on a related court matter.
"I'd probably go so far as to say we would never accept such an assignment," said Jeff Stone, a 20-year private investigator and president/chief executive officer of Tacit Investigations & Security in Winnipeg.
The Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing seven Manitoba churches in an ongoing court battle over the legality of COVID-19 public health orders.
This week, after being confronted by the judge presiding over the case, the centre's president admitted he had hired a private investigator to follow Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.
Joyal was a few weeks away from issuing his decision on the court challenge when he discovered he was being followed.
When Joyal informed the lawyers involved about his knowledge, John Carpay admitted he had tasked private investigators with observing Joyal and other Manitoba officials to find out if they were following the public health orders.
"I'd probably go so far as to say we would never accept such an assignment." — Jeff Stone, president/chief executive officer of Tacit Investigations & Security
During a court hearing Monday, the judge said he had been trailed by a suspicious vehicle after leaving the courthouse and running errands.
Joyal said a boy who looked about 14 later exited the passenger side of a suspect vehicle and knocked on his front door July 8. Joyal wasn't home, but said the boy asked his daughter about his whereabouts.
After reporting the incident to police, Joyal learned a private investigator had been following him and had obtained the addresses of his home and cottage.
On Monday, Carpay apologized to the judge, and has since taken an "indefinite leave" from his position as centre president.
Private investigators in Manitoba are regulated under provincial law, which states they must be at least 18.
It's illegal for a minor to carry out such work, making the door-knock problematic enough, said Stone. The fact Joyal was involved in the ongoing court challenge should have prevented the unnamed private investigator from taking on the assignment, he added.
"Especially with a current litigation and that judge being the one presiding over it, that could be perceived as obstruction of justice," Stone said. "I'm no lawyer, but for me, that just doesn't bode well — we'd never do that."
Private investigators are supposed to do due diligence before taking on clients, seeking any potential conflicts or red flags, he said.
"I'm surprised that the investigation agency didn't do that in this case, and if it did, in my opinion, it just shows... poor judgment."
"We can follow people in the public if we have a legitimate purpose to do so, but when you step over the boundary and you attend to the home or homes... at that point, that judge had a reasonable expectation of privacy." — Janie Duncan of Winnipeg-based Duncan Investigations Inc
Janie Duncan of Winnipeg-based Duncan Investigations Inc. said she also sees ethical problems in the now high-profile investigation case.
"We can follow people in the public if we have a legitimate purpose to do so, but when you step over the boundary and you attend to the home or homes... at that point, that judge had a reasonable expectation of privacy," said Duncan, who has been a private investigator for 30 years.
Duncan said she wouldn't have taken this assignment, adding investigators must consider the purpose of the information they're tasked with gathering.
"I do not condone the actions, at all, of the private investigator. It's embarrassing," she said.
Duncan and Stone both told the Free Press they didn't know which private investigation firm took the case on behalf of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.