January 4, 2019 6:27 pm

One of three charges dropped in Halifax cop’s assault trial

Fri, Jan 4: The Halifax police officer accused of assaulting a homeless man last February was back in court on Friday. Laurence Gary Basso took the stand in the case for the first time, and as Elizabeth McSheffrey tells us, one of the charges against him has been dropped.

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The breach of trust charge has been dropped in the trial of Halifax Regional Police officer accused of assaulting a homeless man outside a local shelter in February last year, and conspiring to cover it up.

Const. Laurence Gary Basso appeared in provincial court on Friday, where he answered questions relevant to the remaining two charges – assault causing bodily harm and public mischief.

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READ MORE: Trial for Halifax police officer accused of assaulting homeless man to resume in the new year

Basso is alleged to have assaulted Patrice Simard in the early hours of Feb. 25, 2018 in the parking lot of the Metro Turning Point shelter on Barrington Street. He was in the process of removing the man, who had been kicked out for drinking in his bunk, and was visibly intoxicated.

Simard appeared in court on Dec. 5, 2018, and testified that he had asked Basso to take him to the “drunk tank,” because he feared for his safety in the cold, snowy weather.

Taking the stand for the first time, however, Basso told both Crown and defence lawyers that he repeatedly told Simard there were other options for him, including two nearby shelters, and that he had no intention of arresting him.

READ MORE: Trial begins for Halifax police officer accused of assaulting man at homeless shelter

Basso alleged that after refusing repeatedly to leave the parking lot, Simard punched him in the leg. Basso said he responded in kind in order to “end any threat from Mr. Simard,” who had a previous criminal record, and a caution of violence attached to his name by police.

Basso told the court he delivered a “hard strike” to Simard’s cheek – a blow that is clearly visible in a 17-minute security tape taken at the Metro Turning Point shelter on the night of the alleged assault. The tape was viewed frame by frame as evidence, and late last year, brought Simard to tears.

The constable explained that while Simard’s own alleged blow “wasn’t enough that it was going to cause injury,” he felt the need to incapacitate him in order to ensure that the man would not grab him and cause him to slip in the parking lot. He proceeded to handcuff Simard, whom he claimed “was not co-operating at any point” during that time.

It was then that Basso says he informed Simard that he would be charged with assaulting a police officer. That charge was later dropped.

Nova Scotia’s police watchdog, the Serious Incident Response Team, laid the charges against Basso on April 13, 2018, and Basso has been suspended without pay since that time.

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