Halifax police officer found guilty of assaulting homeless man outside shelter
A Halifax Regional Police officer has been found guilty of assaulting a homeless man outside a shelter in the city last year.
Police contacted Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team in March 2018, after receiving information about an assault by a police officer on a man at the Metro Turning Point shelter.
The 54-year-old homeless man sustained facial injuries, including a broken nose, during the altercation on Feb. 25, 2018.
Following an investigation, SIRT charged 37-year-old Const. Laurence Gary Basso with assault causing bodily harm.
Basso pleaded not guilty in May 2018.
A video of the incident was a key piece of evidence at Basso’s trial. The video from the shelter security camera showed Basso striking a man in the face outside the shelter.
During his testimony, Joseph (Patrice) Simard repeatedly said he had almost no memory of what had happened from the time of the incident until after waking up the next day in a police lockup.
Basso testified that Simard hit him first, but the judge presiding over the case relied heavily on the video evidence to find otherwise.
“I don’t believe this case would have gone the way that it would have but for the fact that we had the video showing what really, quite frankly, happened at the time,” said Crown attorney Peter Dostal.
“This particular case was one where we had a particularly disadvantaged individual -- a homeless individual -- out in the cold in the middle of the winter, intoxicated.”
Basso was found guilty of assault causing bodily harm in Halifax provincial court on Wednesday.
Basso has been a member of the Halifax Regional Police for 15 years. He is still employed with Halifax Regional Police, but has been suspended with pay.
HRP says it won’t be commenting on specifics in the case, but did release the following statement:
“The conviction of one of our officers for a criminal offence is troubling. We recognize that police officers are expected to be above reproach at all times. It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment further on a court process,” said police in the statement.
“Following the handing down of the verdict this morning, we will take the necessary time to work through our next steps. A Police Act Investigation was initiated when this matter was brought to light. This investigation was paused during the criminal proceedings and will resume pending completion of the court processes. Disciplinary action is a confidential personnel matter that we will not discuss publicly.”
Basso’s lawyer says it’s too early to think about appealing the guilty verdict.
“I think it’s been stressful. It’s taken a long time,” said James Giacomantonio. “It’s been hard on him. I think he felt and continues to feel like he was, you know, doing his best and put in a tough situation that night, but we respect the court’s ruling and we’ll appear for the sentencing.”
Basso will is set to be sentenced on Oct. 7.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Natasha Pace and The Canadian Press