STRIP-SEARCH SUIT WON AFTER 17 YEARS
Enemas, X-Rays Used In Search For Drugs After Arriving At Edmonton
EDMONTON - More than 17 years after a woman was subjected to a strip
and cavity search after arriving at the Edmonton International
Airport, a judge has awarded her more than $230,000.
The woman, Maria Nagy, was "railroaded by the reprehensible misconduct
of the police," said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Vital Ouellette in
his written decision of the case.
"She wouldn't let it go," Nagy's lawyer Patrick Kirwin said Tuesday, a
day after the judge handed down his ruling. "This sort of thing should
not be happening in Canada."
Defendants in the lawsuit include the federal government, the City of
Edmonton, the Grey Nuns Hospital and several individuals. The lawsuit
was prolonged by complicated technical issues and Nagy's mental
condition, said Kirwin.
The lawsuit says Edmonton police, acting on a tip from an informant,
suspected Nagy was carrying illegal drugs when she returned to
Edmonton from Budapest, Hungary, on Oct. 6, 1987, on a flight which
had stopped over in Amsterdam.
After she underwent a strip search at the airport, she was arrested
and taken to Edmonton police headquarters where she spoke to a lawyer.
From there she was taken to the Grey Nuns Hospital where a doctor
directed procedures be performed on Nagy including: induced vomiting
by drinking a solution, three enemas, internal cavity searches and
X-rays of her stomach and abdomen.
No drugs were discovered. Ouellette said he could find no evidence the
police in charge had "reasonable or probable grounds" to arrest Nagy
or conduct the searches.
The judge also said he found there was no consent to the invasive
procedures, and that the doctor's "actions constitute an assault and
As a result of the searches, Ouellette said he believes these events
caused Nagy to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The judge said the searches did contribute to her ongoing mental
illnesses but they required hospitalization and treatment only after
Within a year of the search, she was hospitalized with psychiatric
difficulties. Her current psychiatrist described her as suffering from
a major psychosis and delusions.
"I accept the evidence ... that Nagy was suffering from post-traumatic
stress disorder and that the probable cause or trigger was the
invasive, internal cavity search of Oct. 6, 1987," Ouellette wrote.
"Nagy's mental injuries have now continued for approximately 17
The judge awarded her $30,000 for unlawful search and false
imprisonment, $150,000 in general damages resulting in mental
injuries, and $50,000 in punitive damages and interest.
Barbara Stratton, a lawyer for Dr. Gregory Phillips, said her client
was considering options, including an appeal.
The Edmonton Police Service, which is no longer responsible for the
airport, said its legal advisers must study the case before commenting.
Cpl. Wayne Oakes of the RCMP, which now polices the airport, but had
nothing to do with the Nagy lawsuit, said each case must be decided on
its merits before strip searches for drugs are conducted.
"You just can't blanket say if there's drugs, the person gets down to
their birthday suit," he said.
"You have to have grounds to take certain steps."
He said strip searches also often require a warrant signed by a
justice of the peace or judge.