Lawyer questions police response to melee at B.C. nail salon
The police officer who responded to a violent dispute at a Chilliwack, B.C. nail salon over the weekend might have overstepped his authority, according to a lawyer following the story.
Cellphone video recorded in the middle of the confrontation shows HD Nails employees refusing to let a woman leave the salon unless she pays her $76 bill.
The customer, 26-year-old Ashley Deshaies, can be heard complaining that her fingernails were different lengths and her pedicure wasn’t finished. At one point, she offers to pay half of her bill so she can leave the salon, but no more.
Both sides in the dispute became physical on camera, and police were ultimately called to the scene. The customer's family said the officer who arrived threatened to arrest her for fraud if she didn't pay up – a response Sarah Leamon of Leamon Roudette Law Group argued would be hard to justify.
Leamon said she's only privy to the details that have been reported in the media, but she doesn't see "any basis for a fraud allegation here."
She also believes it would be inappropriate for police to try and settle a dispute that should have been handled in small claims court.
"It wasn't up to the officer to adjudicate that and to basically use the strong arm of the law and the threat of criminal proceedings in order to compel a person to pay for services that they were unhappy with," Leamon said.
The Chilliwack RCMP detachment told CTV News that the file is still under investigation to determine whether charges are warranted.
The RCMP will also look at whether the responding officer acted appropriately. It is unclear if the officer involved really did threaten Deshaies.
Her family's story was partially backed up by staff at HD Nails, who said the officer ordered her to pay $23, or about one-third of her bill.
In the cellphone video, Deshaies and salon owner Anna Dang each accuse the other of getting violent first. It's unclear who is telling the truth.
Dang told CTV News they locked the customer inside because she didn't want to give away her services for free. Deshaies' family believes what happened in the salon amounts to forcible confinement, a Criminal Code offence, and they want the employees investigated.
Leamon said it's certainly safer for businesses to avoid keeping people against their will.
"I would say as a rule of thumb, businesses should not be engaging in that practice," she told CTV News.
"There are defences to that, but I think it's best for business owners to perhaps pursue those kinds of civil debts in a civil capacity – so, perhaps in small claims court or something like that – rather than to risk embarking on an unlawful course of action."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure