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Retired officer appealing prisoner assault conviction

Jun 07 2012

Retired Victoria police sergeant George Chong is appealing his conviction for assaulting a prisoner in police cells in January 2010.

On Wednesday, Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen heard submissions in B.C. Supreme Court from Chong's lawyer Richard Peck and special prosecutor Mark Jette. Cullen has reserved his decision on the appeal and said he will issue written reasons in due course,

In November 2011, Victoria provincial court Judge Herb Weitzel convicted Chong of assaulting Frank Blair, a 35 yearold with a long criminal history.

The incident began in the early morning of Jan. 15, 2010, when Blair was arrested while working at a nightclub. Blair, who was on bail, had successfully applied to have his curfew lifted but the change was not put onto the police information system.

Although Blair assured the officers his curfew had been lifted, he was forced to leave work and spend the night in cells at the Victoria police station.

Later that morning, Blair was woken up and told he would be photographed and fingerprinted.

Blair was agitated and resisted having his fingerprints taken. He attempted to fingerprint himself and at one point, pulled his hand away, claiming that the guard was hurting him.

Chong moved in and applied a vascular neck restraint. Blair became unconscious, slipped out of Chong's grasp and hit his head on the ground, cutting his mouth. He was taken to hospital later that morning and received 15 stitches.

Chong received a suspended sentence and 12 months probation. The veteran police officer was also disciplined under the Police Act and suspended without pay for five days for failing to care for the injured Blair.

During submissions Wednesday, Peck said Weitzel had failed to consider evidence that Blair was a violent and dangerous person.

Weitzel also failed to take give proper weight to the evidence of use-of-force expert Sgt. Clive Milligan, Peck said.

Milligan testified that police cell videos of the incident are limited because they do not refresh as quickly as the human eye. The videos have no audio and do not show emotion. They did not pick up on subtle pre-assault cues given by Blair.

"Sgt. Milligan didn't see these things because he did not expect to see these things," Peck said.

Chong testified that when Blair gave him a 1,000-yard stare, he believed the prisoner was going to become violent.

Weitzel, who watched the videos, said he didn't see Blair give Chong a 1,000-yard stare.

"A stare doesn't have to last very long. A second or two can be sufficient," Peck said.

Jette said the video supports what happened and is a wonderful tool to see the order of events

"We're not dealing with a 1920s silent film," Jette said. "We're looking at something that is pretty real. It is a fluid scene."

Chong was focused only on completing the fingerprint process, Jette said. Chong ignored Blair's comments that he'd been falsely arrested. He also complained of pain when he was being fingerprinted.

"Chong made no attempt to deal with his complaints. - He was going to get it completed one way or another."

Other options were available to Chong and they were not pursued, Jette said.


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