Lawyers Ask for Dismissal of Case Against Detective Facing Discipline for Probing Vaccine-Child Death Link

Lawyers Ask for Dismissal of Case Against Detective Facing Discipline for Probing Vaccine-Child Death Link
A close-up of an Ottawa Police officer’s badge is seen in Ottawa on April 28, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Matthew Horwood

OTTAWA—Lawyers for Helen Grus, an Ottawa Police Service (OPS) detective accused of discreditable conduct after investigating the vaccination status of the mothers of deceased infants, have asked for her disciplinary hearing case to be dismissed, saying prosecutors had failed to prove the charges against her.

“Our position is that the tribunal should move for a dismissal of the disciplinary proceedings against Detective Helen Grus,” defence lawyer Bath-Sheba van den Berg said during a police disciplinary hearing in Kanata, Ont., on Jan. 8.

“The prosecutor has not proffered evidence relevant to the elements of the discreditable conduct charge against Detective Grus. Upon the facts in the law, no case has been made against Detective Grus.”

Constable Grus, who is a detective with the OPS sexual assault and child abuse unit investigating child abuse and neglect, faces a charge of discreditable conduct for allegedly conducting an “unauthorized project” between June 2020 and January 2022. During that time, Ms. Grus conducted an investigation into the sudden deaths of nine children, allegedly accessing Ottawa police files and contacting the coroner’s office to learn the COVID-19 vaccination status of the parents to look for an association between the two.

On Jan. 30, 2022, Ms. Grus also allegedly contacted the father of a deceased infant to inquire into the COVID-19 vaccination status of his wife, without the knowledge of the lead detective on that case. Ms. Grus was suspended without pay in February 2022, but was ordered to return to work with restrictions at an Oct. 11, 2022, OPS internal hearing.

Ms. van den Berg argued that the prosecutor had failed to present “relevant material evidence” to establish that Ms. Grus had engaged in the prohibited acts necessary to meet the threshold for such a charge, and thus had not established a prima facie case.

Ms. van den Berg also made the point that other findings of guilt for discreditable conduct have included offences such as submitting fraudulent insurance claims and pointing a firearm at another police officer. The conduct that Ms. Grus is accused of lacks such serious nature, she said.

Opening Statement

In his opening statement for the defence, lawyer Blair Ector said that the prosecution had failed to meet the necessary burden on any of the three charges on Ms. Grus’s charge sheet: having self-initiated an unauthorized project in which she accessed the nine infant death cases, failing to record her involvement or finding in a file, and interfering in another ongoing investigation.

Mr. Ector said the wording of the charge sheet—that the “foregoing conduct constitutes an offense”—means the prosecution must prove Ms. Grus committed all three of the prohibited acts, which it had failed to do.

According to Mr. Ector, the act of searching through the OPS’s Records Management Service (RMS) did not constitute an unauthorized project and was something Ms. Grus had done throughout her entire career. He added that previous RMS searches by Ms. Grus had helped solve cases on which she had not been the investigator.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary for her to look at any number of cases on RMS on any given day. The first prohibit has been completely, totally rebutted by the defence,” Mr. Ector said. “Furthermore, the prosecutor has failed to call any evidence about what even constitutes a self-initiated, unauthorized project.”

On the second charge, Ms. Ector said evidence had already been presented during the hearing that the detective had, in fact, made notes on her queries within the investigation. “The evidence before this tribunal is not clear and convincing that Detective Grus failed to record her involvement in the nine RMS queries. The evidence before this tribunal directly contravenes such claim.”

On the third charge, Ms. Ector said the Jan. 30, 2022, phone call Ms. Grus made with the father of the deceased infant was “cordial, polite, and respectful,” and that OPS members had testified during the trial that the call had no impact on the other detective’s case. Additionally, Ms. Grus disclosed the phone call to the other detective voluntarily, Mr. Ector said.

“Accordingly, given the fact that no evidence has been led before this tribunal about this phone call with [the detective’s case] of constituting interference in a matter that brings into disrepute the OPS on evidence that’s clear and convincing, this tribunal must find Detective Grus not guilty on this ground,” he said.

Mr. Ector also made the point that during the pandemic it was normal for individuals to be asked to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter certain businesses. “It reduces to utter absurdity to suggest that a detective investing a sudden death cannot make the same inquiry in a very polite, cordial manner. There’s nothing that brings the OPS into disruption,” he said.