Police officer Michael Peart was found guilty after trial of assault causing actual bodily harm to a man in custody, and guilty of common assault against the same person.
the charges arose from a routine traffic stop on the night of Nov. 28, 2014.
Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez announced her verdicts on Monday morning after hearing evidence for two days in November.
In her judgment, she explained that the charges arose from a routine traffic stop on the night of Nov. 28, 2014.
The driver later admitted that he had resisted arrest and other offenses.
Peart said that when the vehicle was stopped, the driver threw his license at him, used rude language, and things escalated.
The driver was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police vehicle. He denied kicking at the glass in the vehicle or kicking at the backs of the front seats. He said he could not lift his leg because of a pin in it.
Peart said he got into the back of the vehicle with the man, whom he described as kicking and acting out. The officer denied using his baton on the man; he said he used his elbow.
The man complained of pain to his chest and knee. Photos of the injuries showed four round bruises to the man’s chest. One doctor said the injuries were consistent with blunt force trauma. A second doctor looked at the photographs and concluded that the trauma was caused by a circular object.
Still photos from the police station showed that by the time Peart arrived there, he had his baton pulled from his belt. The injuries were consistent with the man’s complaints, and the magistrate concluded that the baton had been used. She then had to consider whether the use of such force was reasonable.
“We must give our officers the right to use reasonable force,” she pointed out. Officers have important duties to carry out in their protection of the public, she commented, and they should be able to do so without the threat of prosecution.
The magistrate said she accepted that the driver/complainant may have been acting out and that Peart may have thought it necessary to be in the vehicle to control him.
But Peart denied using his baton and she could not reconcile that with the medical evidence. Both Crown counsel Scott Wainwright and defense attorney Crister Brady had accepted that if the court found that Peart had used the baton, he would be guilty.
The common assault charge came from the man’s complaint that Peart had held him against the wall of the police station custody office on two occasions.
Peart said the man was cursing and behaving boisterously and, as a result, he was in fear of his safety and that of fellow officers.
The magistrate said she watched and listened to CCTV from the custody suite. She heard the complainant repeatedly say that he needed to go to the hospital. He was angry and loud and refused to sit down. He was handcuffed with his hands behind him throughout.
Peart pushed him against a wall and held him there, once for three minutes and once for about 40 seconds. The desk sergeant told Peart to leave him. The magistrate said he heard the complainant say at least 17 times, “Bobby, take your [expletive] hands off me.”
Peart told the court that the man had threatened to spit at him. He said it was a safety issue and he was trying to control the situation.
One point the magistrate noted was that the man was never placed in a cell and the custody sergeant did not form the opinion that he needed to be placed in a cell. She found that the force used was not reasonable in both situations. Mr. Brady asked for a social inquiry report, and sentencing was adjourned until March 27. Peart’s bail was extended until then.