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MLA Percy Paris enters adult diversion program

The assault case against Percy Paris, the former cabinet minister tied to a scuffle in the men's bathroom at the Nova Scotia legislature last spring, is scheduled to resume in court today.

He stepped down as cabinet minister after alleged cabinet scuffle

Former Nova Scotia cabinet minister Percy Paris speaks about the incident at Province House that netted him an assault charge last spring. 3:24

Former Nova Scotia cabinet minister Percy Paris has entered the adult diversion program after a scuffle in the men's bathroom at the provincial legislature last spring.

The 65-year-old is charged with assault and uttering threats against Liberal MLA Keith Colwell. Officers were initially called to Province House after he accused Paris of assaulting him during a heated altercation in the men's washroom.

Paris resigned as the NDP's tourism and economic development minister saying he "lost his cool."

Though Paris said he accepts responsibility for his actions, he said he is waiting to hear recommendations from the adult diversion program before considering apologizing.

"First of all I don't know what’s going to happen with respect to adult diversion. I’ll see what they’ve got to say to me and I’ll take everything into consideration," he said.

Paris said he never struck Colwell and the incident was blown out of proportion.

"I laid my hands on somebody. If you're asking me if I grabbed ahold of him in a forceful way — my response has been and always will be, no," he said.

"There are things that happen in the house, in life — have far worse things happened? Well, absolutely."

He said though he was upset by comments Colwell made about "his community" referring to the largely African Nova Scotian community of Preston.

Colwell said he did nothing wrong.

"I refer to my whole community as 'My community, our community,' and it’s a term that we use on a regular basis when we’re representing all areas of my community," he said.

The adult diversion program acts as an alternative to traditional punitive measures taken against offenders.

Paris did not appear in court on Thursday, but he's due back in court on Oct. 24 to find out if he's completed the program. To be successful he'll have to accept full responsibility for his actions.

If so, he could avoid a criminal record.

As part of the program he might have to craft a letter of apology, reconcile with the victim or do community service work.

Crown attorney Denise Smith, who made the request to send the case to adult diversion, said the program is common for those without a criminal record and are facing charges related to non-violent crimes.

"Any person who meets the criteria such as Mr. Paris does of not having a prior criminal record and accepting responsibility for the offence would be eligible for this program. Many, many, many, individuals are referred on a daily basis in criminal courts throughout the province," she said.

Paris continues to represent the Waverley-Fall River-Beaverbank riding.

with files from the Canadian Press

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