PowerCase as Electronic Evidence in the Courtroom: Waterloo Regional Police Service's Innovative Use of Case Management Software

Article excerpt

"Between May of 1987 and December of 1992, Paul Bernardo raped or sexually assaulted at least eighteen women in Scarborough, Peel, and St. Catharines, and killed three women in St. Catharines and Burlington, Ontario. Paul Bernardo is a unique type of criminal, a determined, organized, mobile, sadistic serial rapist and killer who demonstrates the ability of such predators to strike in any Ontario community. The tragic history of this case, and similar cases from other countries, shows that these predators pose a unique challenge to the systemic investigative capacity of local law enforcement agencies throughout North America and Europe. The Bernardo case proves that Ontario is no exception"

The Honourable Mr. Justice Archie G. Campbell--Chair, Bernardo Judicial Inquiry, p.1.

On December 13th 1995, the Honourable Mr. Justice Archie G. Campbell was commissioned to conduct a judicial inquiry to review and report on the roles played by the police, the Centre of Forensic Sciences, and the Coroner, that ultimately led to charges being laid against Paul Bernardo. On March 31st 1996 the Honourable Mr. Justice Campbell tendered his final Report and accompanying twenty seven recommendations to the Solicitor General of Ontario. The recommendation of particular importance for this article is #22, which called for "one single uniform computerized case management system for mandatory use in all serial predator investigations and all major sexual assault and homicide cases."1

POWERCASE: ONTARIO'S MAJOR CASE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

In response to Recommendation #22 of the Bernardo Judicial Inquiry, the Solicitor General for the Province of Ontario prescribed PowerCase as the single, provincial major case management software tool. PowerCase is a provincial database with four unique yet interrelated components focused on the early detection of serial predators, enhanced cooperation and communication amongst police services, integration and unification of the case management process, and the comprehensive and multifaceted analysis of the information contained therein.

The use of PowerCase was piloted from 1999 to August 2001 in three police services: Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Service, and Peel Regional Police. In September of 2001, PowerCase was made available to all police services within the province for use within the prescribed investigative criterion, or threshold offences, on a voluntary basis. In February of 2002, Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) Homicide Investigators quickly recognized and embraced the comprehensiveness and totality of the collective benefits of this powerful investigative tool while envisioning future applications. The WRPS Homicide Branch implemented strict protocols mandating the use of PowerCase at its full functionality in all homicide investigations.

APPLYING POWERCASE: REGINA v. ANDRONICOS VANEZIS

Commencing on May 23rd 1995, and over the course of the next three days, Andronicos Vanezis (age 33 years) brutally beat, sexually assaulted and ultimately murdered Pamela Bonn (age 40 years) inside of his Kitchener, Ontario apartment. Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) Homicide Investigators were alerted to Ms. Bonn's demise in the mid-afternoon of May 25th 1995, when her washed, redressed and partially clothed body was discovered in a residential park approximately one half kilometre from the actual murder scene. Information obtained over the course of the next three days permitted WRPS Homicide Investigators to obtain judicial authorization to execute a search warrant at the residence of Mr. Vanezis. At the time of warrant execution the apartment, which was abandoned, yielded significant evidence of violence and scene cleanup.

On May 29th 1995 Mr. Vanezis was arrested and charged with the first degree murder of Ms. Bonn. During the subsequent interrogation Mr. Vanezis provided only exculpatory statements, and flatly denied knowing or ever having been in contact with Ms. …