Nova Scotia

Former Halifax officer gets 30 days for breaking homeless man's nose

A former Halifax police constable will serve 30 days in jail on weekends for breaking a homeless man's nose with a single punch on February 25, 2018. Basso's previous conviction was overturned due to a judge's mistakes.

Laurence Gary Basso sentenced for punching Patrice Simard outside shelter in 2018

Former police officer Laurence Gary Basso is shown entering the Halifax provincial courthouse in 2019. (CBC)

A former Halifax Regional Police officer was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail for breaking a homeless man's nose with a punch to the face in 2018.

"It's been a long four years and, you know, it's changed my life drastically, not just for the last four years, but also going forward. I lost a career that I lived for," Laurence Garry Basso, 38, told Judge Paul Scovil before receiving his sentence. 

It's the second time the former police constable has been sentenced for assault causing bodily harm against Patrice Simard. 

In 2019, Basso received a four-month sentence for the same assault, but the conviction was overturned due a judge's errors interpreting evidence.

During a sentencing hearing Monday at Halifax provincial court, Basso's lawyer James Giacomantonio argued for a suspended sentence plus probation, which he said was in line with similar cases where police assaulted people in custody.

In a still from surveillance footage, Halifax police officer Const. Laurence Gary Basso is seen punching Patrice Simard outside Metro Turning Point shelter in February 2018. (CBC)

Giacomantonio said his client had been "humiliated" by four years of news stories about the assault, and had lost his policing career after being fired from the force in Halifax. 

Giacomantonio said jail time for Basso would be "unnecessary and gratuitous."

Crown prosecutor Peter Dostal asked for a sentence of three to four months in jail plus probation due to the "exceptional circumstances" of a police officer abusing his position of trust with a serious assault.

Punch on video

Basso met Simard outside the Metro Turning Point shelter in Halifax on Feb. 25, 2018. Simard, who was homeless, had been kicked out of the shelter for drinking alcohol in his bunk. 

Security video shows Simard kneeling in the snow in front of Basso. After a brief scuffle over Simard's backpack, Basso punched Simard in the face. Simard falls sideways to the ground.

Basso claimed Simard punched him in the leg first before he struck back. Scovil ruled in convicting Basso earlier this year that if Simard made contact with Basso's leg, it was not a punch. 

Simard testified at Basso's first trial, but died before he could appear a second time. His original testimony was entered into evidence in the second trial. 

Scovil called the blow a "haymaker" when he convicted Basso on Feb. 28 of this year.

"It is of great concern that intoxicated homeless persons 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," Scovil said Monday. "We expect more from our police."

Probation not necessary

Scovil said previous cases ended with a wide range of sentences, from conditional sentences to jail time. He said it was a difficult decision, but a police assault on a vulnerable person is grave enough to require time in custody. 

Scovil ruled basso Basso can serve his 30-day sentence on weekends in Cape Breton between 8 a.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday. 

Because Basso's pre-sentence report was unusually positive, Scovil said probation would serve no purpose. 

Basso is subject to a 10-year weapons ban and his DNA profile will be catalogued by police.

The court heard Basso lives with his wife in Cape Breton where he runs his own landscaping business.