The lawyer for an RCMP officer acquitted this week in Nunavut on charges of assault calls the court’s decision “a just result,” but says his client never should have been charged in the first place.
The Crown prosecutor, meanwhile, says it wasn’t the outcome he was hoping for but he too believes justice has been served.
Cpl. Ian Crowe, the former commander of a two-man RCMP detachment in Sanirajak, Nunavut, was accused by a fellow officer of smashing a man’s head into gravel during an arrest in the community in June 2020. Crowe stood trial in the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit in February and was found not guilty on Monday.
In her ruling, Justice Susan Charlesworth said Crowe appeared “earnest” when he testified in his own defence. Meanwhile, she found the testimony from the only witness in the case, Const. Tyson Richard, problematic.
Richard and Crowe both worked at the two-man detachment in Sanirajak in 2020.
No likelihood of conviction, says lawyer
Calgary-based lawyer Robb Beeman, who represented Crowe, routinely acts as a defence lawyer for RCMP officers accused on the job.
He believes there was “no reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
“It was obvious from the beginning that the complainant … had an agenda and that his evidence was not credible in any way,” Beeman said, “which was essentially reflected in the decision of Justice Charlesworth.”
Beeman said his client has been off work since the allegation came to light two and a half years ago.
“It’s just incredibly disappointing that someone has to go through this sort of hell of being off work and being in limbo for years because of, essentially, the word of a disgruntled employee,” Beeman said.
He says police are not above the law, but also argues they should not be treated differently than anyone else before the courts.
“I can’t believe, but for the fact that he’s a police officer, that anyone would have proceeded with this charge.”
‘Strong public interest’ in trying case, says prosecutor
Crown prosecutor Leo Lane says Crowe received “no better or worse treatment than anybody else,” just because he’s a police officer.
“The important thing is that the case was heard,” said Lane, who is based in Whitehorse and who tried the case instead of a Nunavut lawyer to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Lane also said that he thought Const. Richard “was a credible and reliable witness and there was a strong public interest in transparency and seeing that case litigated on its merits.”
In her ruling, the judge admitted she was “confused” by the Crown’s decision not to call the alleged victim of the assault “to allow for a more thorough recounting of the facts surrounding the charge to be put on the record.”
Lane said that, to the best of his knowledge, the individual is no longer living in Nunavut, and they were unable to locate him for the trial.
“There was a brief contact made and … we communicated that we wanted him to participate and essentially he didn’t seem interested in participating and we lost contact,” Lane said.
The judge also noted that no photographic evidence was presented in the case.
Beeman said he couldn’t think of a case where an assault prosecution proceeded in the absence of a victim.
But Lane said it’s not uncommon for cases to be tried with only two witnesses. “Certainly judges can and have convicted on similar types of evidence in the past on a single witness against the accused.”
Less common, Lane said, is for one RCMP officer to testify against another.
“I have to give credit to Const. Richard for bringing the [incident] to light and reporting it. He saw what he believed was misconduct and … it can’t be easy to do that, especially in a two-member detachment when you’re essentially reporting on your supervisor,” Lane said.
Lane said he has no plans to appeal the decision.
Beeman, meanwhile, says the result was “unequivocal”: the judge believed his client, and not his accuser.
“I feel just incredibly badly for this guy. His life has been sort of upended,” Beeman said.
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