Nova Scotia

Police officer gets 3 months in jail for assaulting homeless man

A Halifax Regional Police officer found guilty of assault causing bodily harm for punching a homeless man outside a shelter in 2018 has been sentenced to three months in jail.

Const. Laurence Gary Basso will start serving sentence intermittently on Feb. 7

Const. Laurence Gary Basso was found guilty of assault causing bodily harm last June for punching Patrice Simard. (CBC)

A Halifax Regional Police officer found guilty of assault causing bodily harm for punching a homeless man outside a shelter in 2018 has been sentenced to three months in jail.

Const. Laurence Gary Basso was sentenced on Friday after being found guilty of assault causing bodily harm last June for punching Patrice Simard.

"This was an unprovoked assault that caused bodily harm," said Judge Laurel Halfpenny-MacQuarrie. She said it would be unfathomable to grant the defence team's request for a conditional discharge.

Late Friday afternoon, Halifax Regional Police announced Basso had been fired.

"We recognize that the conviction of one of our officers for a criminal offence is deeply troubling," Chief Dan Kinsella said in a statement. "Our officers' conduct is critical to building and maintaining public trust, and we expect our officers to remain above reproach."

In February 2018, Basso was called to the Metro Turning Point Centre on Barrington Street in Halifax to remove Simard. Basso was called because Simard had been caught drinking in his bunk, which is a violation of the rules.

In a still from surveillance footage, Basso is seen punching Simard outside Metro Turning Point shelter in February 2018. (CBC)

Surveillance footage showed Basso punching Simard in the face. 

Halfpenny-MacQuarrie said the victim needed help from the officer to find shelter in the cold, but he was assaulted instead. His nose was broken in the incident.

The judge referred to a written victim impact statement from Simard, who said he suffered from headaches and breathing issues for months. He said he went to live in the "bush" and was nervous to visit the city and see police officers. He also said it caused him to consume more alcohol.

Halfpenny-MacQuarrie read a number of glowing references about Basso from colleagues and family members. They described him as a role model who is passionate about his career.

Breaking public trust

But the judge said he broke public trust. "It causes public confidence in policing to be called into question," she said.

Halfpenny-MacQuarrie also referred to Basso's past. He was previously accused of stealing a substance known as cut from a police evidence locker in 2015. Those charges were withdrawn because of delays in the prosecution.

Crown attorney Sylvia Domaradzki said it was important that Basso was given a criminal record. 

"There needs to be a message sent that if a police officer steps outside of the lines ... there's going to be repercussions," she said.

Sentence begins next week

Basso will report to jail in Cape Breton on Friday, Feb. 7. He's being allowed to serve intermittently, meaning he will be in custody from Friday to Monday. That is permitted for sentences of 90 days or less.

Basso will also be placed on probation for 12 months and faces a 10-year firearm ban.

Simard was not in court to hear the outcome of the case. Domaradzki said she would be contacting him.

"He is doing well and he is very happy to have all of this behind him," she said. 

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With files from Carolyn Ray

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