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RCMP officer's assault trial adjourned

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, March 28, 2009

LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - The trial to determine whether an RCMP officer assaulted a prisoner in custody is on hold due to the unavailability of a witness.

As well, expected video evidence was absent from the trial. The video may have shed some light on the validity of accusations by a teenaged boy who says Const. Colin Allooloo pepper sprayed him after he was arrested on Sept. 16, 2006. Allooloo has been charged with assault with a weapon.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

The conclusion of RCMP Const. Colin Allooloo's trial has been delayed until the testimony of an additional witness can be heard. Allooloo, seen here in August 2007, is facing a charge of assault with a weapon. - NNSL file photo

Sgt. Cliff McKay, who was in charge of the Fort Simpson RCMP detachment at the time, testified that in March 2006 a video camera system was installed at the detachment. There were cameras in each cell block and one in the main cell area. As part of his investigation, McKay said he tried to retrieve the recordings from that date.

"We discovered it wasn't recording anything," McKay said.

A technician from Yellowknife came to the detachment to try and retrieve the data and was unable to do so, even after taking the hard drive to Yellowknife, according to the sergeant.

Expected to last three days, the Supreme Court trial was adjourned during its second day, on March 25, when a key witness was not able to participate.

Defence lawyer Patrick Fagan requested the adjournment to call the woman who was on guard duty at the RCMP detachment on the night the incident is reported to have taken place.

The witness, who currently lives in Nova Scotia, was originally on the Crown's list of witnesses but was unable to testify because of an illness in her family. Justice Leigh F. Gower agreed to the adjournment.

"This is obviously a serious case involving the career of a member of the RCMP," said Gower.

The effect of the two-and-a-half years that have passed since the alleged incident was apparent during the trial as witnesses for both the Crown and the defence admitted to having trouble recalling the exact details from the date of the incident and the subsequent events.

The complainant, who was 16 at the time of the incident, was pressed by David Gates, a lawyer from the Department of Justice in Calgary, to clarify the sequence of events that took place in the Fort Simpson RCMP detachment.

"I want to forget this ever happened completely," the complainant said.

The young man, now 19, testified that Const. Sigmund Janke arrested him after seeing him outside while in violation of a 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew as part of his probation. The complainant also admitted that he'd consumed vodka that night, but he said it was a small amount.

At the detachment, he was placed briefly in a cell before being moved, clad only in his boxers, to the drunk tank. The complainant testified that pepper spray was used against him twice while he was in the tank.

The first time he was pepper sprayed in the left eye while lying on the floor looking under the door and calling at the officers.

"It was pretty painful," he said.

Later the complainant said both Janke and Allooloo, who were on duty, came to the cell to remove the tissue he'd thrown at the monitoring camera. One officer kept him pinned to the floor while the other removed the tissue and then one of them pepper sprayed the floor of the cell, he testified.

The complainant said he knew pepper spray had been used because it left a strong smell in the cell and the skin on his chest flaked as a result.

During his examination, defence lawyer Patrick Fagan asked the complainant if he agreed that the pepper spray incident never happened.

"Why would I try to make up something that never happened? I'm not that crazy," the complainant said.

Fagan questioned later witnesses about whether they noticed any signs that pepper spray had been used.

McKay testified that during his preliminary investigation of the matter he didn't find any evidence that pepper spray had been used.

The guard on duty that night didn't notice any use of pepper spray and both Janke and Allooloo denied it happened, said McKay. "Both of them said they didn't pepper spray him," the sergeant said.

A date for the trial's continuation is expected to be set in Yellowknife on March 30.

Following the adjournment, when asked about the length of time to conclude the case, Gates said that the period of time between the alleged incident and the filing of the formal complaint was unusual. The incident was on Sept. 16, 2006 and the complaint was filed in March 2007.

"That was a long period of time," said Gates.

Since the charges were laid, the proceedings have moved forward in a normal way, he said. The preliminary inquiry was held on May 27, 2008.

This is not Allooloo's first time being accused of assault by a prisoner. In Iqaluit in March 1999, a man who went to the hospital for emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen said Allooloo kicked him in the abdomen while in a jail cell. Allooloo was cleared by a police investigation and charges were not laid against him.

Shortly after being transferred to Behchoko, Allooloo, while on law enforcement duty, was accused by a man of punching him several times in the face and breaking his jaw in December 1999. A judge found Allooloo not guilty of assault during the ensuing trial in April 2001.