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Let This Be an Eye Opener': Canadian Police Use Facebook Photo to Identify and Arrest Woman

"Really upsetting in a free society."

  • Late last year, a woman allegedly was assaulted in a Toronto bar by another woman she described to have "brown hair" and "bangs."
  • The accuser identified Lizz Aston as the assaulter based on her Facebook profile picture, which was found by scrolling through images of those who were "friends" with the bar on the social media site. 
  • On these grounds, Aston was accused and arrested for assault, even though Aston provided evidence she hadn't been at the bar that night. 
  • The charges were dropped last month but Aston believes the accuser and police still think she was the culprit. 
  • Joe Warmington who investigated this piece cites abuse of power in the Toronto police system. 

A 28-year-old Canadian artist was recently accused of assault and arrested all because of her Facebook photo.

According to a story by Joe Warmington in the London Free Press, Lizz Aston, as an artist from Toronto, said she felt it was "outrageous" that the thumbnail of her Facebook photo was used in an pseudo-online suspect line-up where she was then identified, emailed by authorities and later arrested for assault. Aston said accuser scrolled down the list of people who were friends with the bar on Facebook and picked her out:

She said she received an e-mail in January from a Toronto Police officer in 14 Division "asking me to contact them about an incident that occurred at The Piston (on Bloor St. W., Nov. 19, 2011)."

When she called an officer told her "there was an altercation at the bar, two girls got in a fight and the girl who was assaulted has pointed you out as being her assaulter through a photo on Facebook."

Aston was shocked.

"I checked back to see what I was doing the night in question (and) I was at an art opening half way across the city."

[...]

She described it as "outrageous" that someone could "scroll down the friends list for the bar and point out someone that had brown hair and bangs" and that would be enough to enter someone into the justice system.

She had the text messages to prove her alibi -- she was at a friend's art opening and then spent the evening with her boyfriend.

This all went down on Jan. 7. Last week, March 27, the charges against Aston were dropped. But Warmington reports it still isn't over:

I called media spokesman Const. Tony Vella, someone I highly respect, to check into this. He called Const. Kristal McCullough who, he said, told him that although the charges had been withdrawn, there had been a peace bond entered into by Aston to stay away from the complainants.

She must have been at the bar was the conclusion.

But Lizz was adamant "I did not agree to a peace bond" and after her lawyer presented "evidence" to show" I wasn't even there," the Crown "expressed it was unfortunate that I had to pay someone to do the work that the police should have done to begin with."

Warmington reports Vella clarifying the mistake with an officer who said it was unintentional and still maintained that there were grounds for Aston's arrest. Aston called these grounds "lazy," "incompetent" and "very scary" police work.

Here the Sun News and Warmington discuss the implications of how this woman was identified and accused using social media:

Warmington reports Aston writing on her Facebook wall: "Please let this be an eye opener." Warmington said in the Sun News clip that he finds this abuse of power by the Toronto Police "really upsetting in a free society." While Warmington is fine with use of social media to help in some cases, he said that the evidence found there needs to be backed up.

[H/T Sun News]

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