Leo Crockwell moves to have charges stayed
RCMP used excessive force during Bay Bulls standoff, court told
Leo Crockwell, the man convicted last year of assault and other charges laid after a weeklong siege with RCMP south of St. John's, has asked a judge to have the charges against him stayed.
In an application to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on Monday, Crockwell said the RCMP violated his charter rights in December 2010 by using excessive force during a confrontation at his family's house in Bay Bulls.
A jury convicted Crockwell last June of assault, mischief and several weapons-related offences.
He has not been sentenced because the court has yet to decide on this application.
Crockwell — who is now representing himself, having parted in December with the sixth lawyer to represent him — says the charges should never have been laid, and told the court that the RCMP made errors because of wrong assumptions about his mental health.
Crockwell said Mounties were working on the ill-founded assumption that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and on the assumption he was mentally ill because he was held at the Waterford psychiatric hospital in St. John's in 1998 for four months for allegedly threatening someone.
However, Crockwell was never assessed during his stay at the Waterford, and his detention was later ruled to be illegal.
Crockwell's trial was told that the RCMP intended to quickly resolve a confrontation with Crockwell, but it escalated into a weeklong standoff in which shots were fired from the family home.
Crockwell's application says the RCMP crossed the line when officers smashed the windows of the house, flooded it with 60,000 gallons of water, flattened tires on three vehicles, used stun grenades and tear gas, and surrounded the home with armed officers.
Crockwell said if the RCMP had investigated more fully, they would have realized he was never diagnosed as being mentally ill.
Crown counters arguments
Crown Prosecutor Elizabeth Ivany, however, said the police used "force they believed would end the situation peacefully," and that the RCMP did not go in "initially with guns blazing."
She noted that their attempts to communicate with Crockwell had no effect.
The jury was told, as well, that both Crockwell's mother and sister had told police that Leo Crockwell had been acting strangely just before the dispute began.
Crockwell's sister said he fired a gun in the house and threatened to "waste" her. Crockwell was convicted of assaulting her by shoving her to the floor of a patio and putting the end of a firearm to her neck, while also kicking her several times around her head and face.
Lawyer Randy Piercey, who has been appointed as a friend of the court to observe Crockwell's application, said it has to be asked if the force that officers used was "egregious and excessive," and whether it would be appropriate in a similar situation where they believe someone is mentally ill.
Justice Richard Leblanc will hand down his decision on Wednesday.