Justice Minister Troy Lifford refused to respond to questions in the legislature Friday about how his department dealt with a former sheriff who says she was treated "like trash" by the department following a 2012 accident.

Former sheriff Nicole Doucet was in a sheriff's van transporting three prisoners in a winter storm in April 2012 when the van went off the road and rolled down an embankment. Doucet was not driving.

All five people in the van were injured. Two of the prisoners had serious injuries and are now suing the province.

A witness says Doucet cared the injured at the crash scene despite her own injuries and the absence of a first aid kit, stemming the flow of blood from one prisoner's wounds with a glove at one point.

The sheriff's department had written a letter of commendation to Doucet for her actions at the roadside that day, but it's unclear if the letter was ever sent.

Doucet says she never received the commendation letter and wasn't aware of it until this week's investigation of the van crash by CBC News.

In question period at the legislature on Friday, Liberal Brian Kenny asked Lifford if the letter of commendation was ever sent to Doucet.

The justice minister refused to answer the question.

"It's unfortunate this is the question that is asked on this item," said Lifford, citing restrictions about discussing personnel matters and cases that are before the courts.

"This is a dirty line of questioning and certainly I can see nothing more here than petty politics," he said.

With Lifford's answer, question period expired and Kenny was unable to ask any followup questions.

Doucet says she suffered injuries to her back, a twisted pelvis and bruises and was off work on medical leave for four months.

In June 2013, her contract with New Brunswick Sheriff Services was not renewed after three years of working full-time as a sheriff with, Doucet says, an exemplary record.