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Former Halifax police officer gets 30 days in jail for breaking nose of homeless man

Const. Laurence Gary Basso heads from provincial court in Halifax on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

A former Halifax Regional Police officer has been sentenced to 30 days in jail, to be served on weekends, for assaulting a man outside a homeless shelter in 2018.

Laurence Gary Basso, 38, was found guilty in February of assault causing bodily harm during a re-trial.

Prior to sentencing on Monday, Basso told the court it’s been a “long four years.”

“It’s changed my life drastically,” he said.

“Not just for the last four years, but also going forward, I lost a career that I lived for.”

Punch described as a ‘haymaker’

On Feb. 15, 2018, Basso was called to the Metro Turning Point men’s shelter on Barrington Street to remove Patrice Simard, the court heard.

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Simard had been caught drinking alcohol in his bunk, which was a violation of the facility’s rules.

Read more: Former Halifax police officer found guilty of assaulting homeless man in re-trial

Surveillance footage shown in court captured Basso striking Simard in the face.

Basso testified that he struck Simard in the head in response to a punch Simard landed on the officer’s leg -– a punch Basso said can’t been seen on the video because of the camera angle.

In his February decision, Judge Paul Scovil said Basso’s actions that night were excessive. Scovil further described what happened as a “closed fist punch delivered with what could be termed as a haymaker” and said Basso’s reaction “went beyond what was reasonably necessary.”

A still from the security camera at the Metro Turning Point shelter in Halifax, N.S. Halifax police Const. Laurence Gary Basso is seen striking Patrice Simard. Halifax Provincial Court

Simard required medical attention and was eventually treated for a broken nose as a result of the assault.

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Basso was sentenced in 2019 to three months in jail, and Halifax Regional Police confirmed at the time that he had been let go from the force.

In December 2020, the conviction was overturned by a three-judge panel and a new trial ordered, which took place in September and December of 2021.

February’s decision noted that Simard had died sometime after the first trial. His testimony from the first trial was entered as evidence in the second one.

‘We expect more from our police’

In its recommendation, the Crown argued that police officers are in a position of trust, and should therefore face more severe penalties when breaching that trust.

The Crown was seeking a three-month sentence, followed by a period of probation.

Meanwhile, the defence argued that Basso had lost his career as a police officer and had been subjected to media scrutiny — and was looking for a conditional discharge.

Read more: Court orders new trial for former Halifax police officer accused of assaulting homeless man

Scovil said he did feel that time in custody was necessary, but opted for 30 days on an interim basis. As for probation, Scovil said Basso is “doing well in the community” and that he couldn’t think of what probation to place on him.

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The court had previously heard Basso has been working as a landscaper since the 2018 incident, and has hired employees for his business.

“It is a great concern that an intoxicated homeless person wanting to be detained in the cells of the police on a freezing snowy night had his nose broken after the interaction with the accused and it resulted from police violence,” Scovil said during sentencing.

“We expect more from our police.”

Basso, who has no prior record, will serve his sentence on weekends — from Friday night until Monday morning.

He is also subject to a mandatory weapons ban for 10 years and will have to submit his DNA to police.

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