Reduced sentence for Edmonton man due to excessive force by police

Duane Laver tried to evade police in a stolen vehicle in November 2018. A judge found police used "excessive force" during Laver's arrest and reduced his sentence by six months.

Duane Laver suffered two broken ribs and a torn ear during arrest

Duane Laver was sentenced to time served because police used excessive force during his arrest in November 2018.

Edmonton police used "excessive force" when they arrested a man last fall after a vehicle and foot chase, a provincial court judge says.

Duane Edward Laver suffered numerous cuts and bruises, two broken ribs and a torn ear at the hands of police in November 2018.

"I can only conclude that the handling of Mr. Laver was, to use the kindest terms, gratuitously rough," Judge Larry Anderson said in written decision issued this week.

As a result, Anderson reduced Laver's sentence by six months. Laver was released from custody that same day.

Laver was also given credit for pleading guilty to possession of a stolen vehicle, driving while disqualified and flight from police.

His encounter with police began at a gas station on the afternoon of Nov. 19, 2018.

That day, Laver was behind the wheel of a stolen Buick Enclave when a constable ran the plate, found out it was a stolen vehicle and activated his emergency lights.

Laver drove off with the police cruiser in pursuit. After seven blocks, the SUV hit two other vehicles and a light post. 

Laver ran off. Const. James ran after him. 

During the trial, Laver and Wirrell gave differing accounts of the arrest. The judge said he believed the officer's version of events. 

Wirrell admitted he pushed Laver head-first into a tree, then grabbed him around the neck to bring him close enough to cuff him. 

He said Laver refused to put his hands out, so the constable kneed him in the side eight to 10 times.

"I accept the arresting officer's account that the blows he struck were for the purpose of gaining control while he was without backup," Anderson wrote. "This does not make it a less painful experience for Mr. Laver, but I do not find that the constable's actions were gratuitously excessive."

Wirrell used his pepper spray on Laver and was finally able to handcuff him. By that time, other officers had responded to Wirrell's distress call. 

' ... the result of unnecessary force' 

The judge noted Const. Andrew Jarvis helped escort Laver to the police van. Jarvis admitted Laver was put into the vehicle head first, but couldn't remember if it was because Laver was resisting or because it was "more expedient." 

According to the judge, Jarvis did not make notes and had a poor memory of events. The constable insisted he did not hit Laver, but conceded during cross-examination it was possible other officers may have. 

The constable admitted he was angry because he thought Laver had attacked Wirrell

At least some of the injuries sustained by Mr. Laver were the result of unnecessary force.- provincial court Judge Larry Anderson

Anderson said it was possible Laver suffered a punctured jawbone and torn ear when he was pushed into a tree, but found it equally possible the ear injury occurred in the van. 

"I cannot determine who struck Mr. Laver inside the van, but I find it probable that at least some blows were struck," the judge wrote. "At least some of the injuries sustained by Mr. Laver were the result of unnecessary force, beginning with the way in which [he] was marched to the van and put into the van. 

"I have also found it probable that once in the van, Mr. Laver received further injuries, although I make no finding with respect to who may have struck Mr. Laver." 

Laver's lawyer requested the charges be stayed.

Anderson ruled the police use of force did not rise to a level that would justify a stay of proceedings. But he determined Laver was mistreated enough to warrant a sentence reduction. 

The Crown asked for a 32-month sentence, while the defence suggested 12 months. Anderson settled on an 18-month sentence with 12 months credit for time already served, leaving six months. The judge reduced the sentence by six months to account for the police use of force. 

When Laver realized he would get out of the remand centre that day, he flashed a big smile on his way out of the courtroom.

"That's good news" he told sheriff escorting him.