Defendants are denying claims in a civil suit launched by a Carcross man assaulted by an RCMP officer in 2015.
The Attorney General of Canada recently filed a statement of defence on behalf of the RCMP, and constables Jason Potter and Daniel Rouleau. It’s in response to claims by Duke Beattie arising from the assault.
The suit, lodged in Yukon Supreme Court in May, alleges that the officers breached Beattie’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It also claims malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office, or that the officers were negligent in their arrest and investigation.
But the defendants deny these allegations, and differ on key points about what happened on the night of May 15, 2015.
According to court documents, at around 8:00 that evening, Potter and Rouleau responded to a call requesting the removal of an intoxicated Beattie from a home in Carcross.
At the time, Beattie was subject to a probation order prohibiting him from possessing or consuming alcohol outside his residence. He was also required to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
When the officers arrived, they claim, Beattie was sitting on a bench outside with a beer can within reach and several empty cans nearby.
He was arrested on a charge of breaching probation, handcuffed and put in the back seat of the patrol car.
The defendants claim that as Beattie was being transported to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC), he insulted and swore at the constables, made threats against their lives and kicked the divider.
They say at one point, he threatened to harm Potter’s wife. That is when Potter stopped the patrol car at the side of the road, exited the vehicle and opened the back driver’s side door.
The defence claims that Potter then grabbed Beattie by the collar and yelled at him to stop threatening his family.
But the lawsuit claims Potter grabbed Beattie by the neck, hit his head with a closed fist multiple times and told Beattie he would kill him.
The incident, recorded by a camera in the RCMP vehicle, lasted about 38 seconds.
However, the alleged threats could not be confirmed due to poor audio quality. Beattie denies making the threats.
The officers also claim that prior to the assault, Beattie had threatened to rape Potter’s wife when she was outside in the yard playing with their son.
The officers claim a group of local men, including Beattie, had harassed Potter’s two daughters on one occasion.
As a result of the alleged threats, the statement of defence says Potter was suffering from an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, as well as insomnia and some symptoms of acute stress disorder at the time of the incident.
During the assault, Rouleau got out of the patrol car, opened the passenger’s side back door and verbally told Potter to stop.
The suit claims he was negligent in his duty as a police officer in failing to prevent the assault, or was complicit in it.
The defence says Rouleau “acted in accordance with the standard of care expected of a police officer in the circumstances.”
No audio was recorded in the patrol car following the assault.
The suit claims that officers turned off the audio portion of the in-car video system, contrary to RCMP policy.
But the defence claims that the officers were unaware that the audio wasn’t working.
Both constables completed occurrence reports and immediately reported the incident. This prompted an investigation by the Major Crime Unit of the RCMP.
The suit alleges that the written reports misrepresented the incident.
As well, it claims that the conduct of both officers was “high-handed, egregious and grossly contrary to the standard of conduct and public expectations of a police officer.”
The assault was done willfully, it adds, with the intent to inflict harm.
As well, Canada was negligent in failing to adequately train, supervise and support the officers, the lawsuit argues.
But the defence counters that the assault was not planned in any way, and that Potter had not intended to harm Beattie.
It also claims that Beattie’s conduct toward Potter “provoked Cst. Potter and caused him to lose his power of self-control.”
“Cst. Potter acted impulsively as a result of his mental health conditions and the Plaintiff’s provocation.”
Finally, it states that the RCMP acted in accordance with the standard of care expected of a police service.
Following the incident, Beattie was charged with uttering threats to cause bodily harm to Rouleau, Potter and Potter’s wife; resisting arrest by Rouleau and being assaultive to correctional officers at the WCC processing unit.
These charges were later withdrawn by the Crown.
In August 2015, Potter pled guilty to assaulting Beattie.
In April 2016, he was given a conditional discharge with nine months’ probation and 40 hours of community service.
An internal independent investigation also found that he contravened the RCMP Code of Conduct.
He was required to provide a written apology to Beattie and forfeit 20 days’ pay.
He was ineligible for promotion for two years, and was transferred out of Carcross.