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New trial ordered for RCMP officers found guilty of assault

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Manitoba’s highest court has ordered a new trial for two RCMP officers found guilty of beating a handcuffed man they were found to have wrongfully arrested.

Cpl. Jeffrey Thomas Moyse, 43, and Const. Trevor Ens, 32, had both maintained their innocence during a 2011 trial. But Queen’s Bench Justice Perry Schulman rejected their version of events in finding both guilty of assault.

Moyse was then given a four-month jail sentence, while Ens received a four-month conditional sentence. Both officers immediately filed appeals, which put their penalties on pause. It also allowed them to hang on to their careers, as RCMP said they would await final outcome of the case before making a decision.

In a decision released Thursday, the Court of Appeal cited numerous errors made by the judge as grounds to overturn the guilty verdicts and have a re-trial. No date has been set.

Moyse and Ens testified in their own defence and denied the October 2008 incident in Traverse Bay, about 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. But Schulman said he favoured the evidence of Conley Papineau, who told court he was punched in the face and stomach, kicked in the head and repeatedly thrown around by the accused after being confronted in a bar parking lot.

Papineau said Moyse and Ens then threw him in the back of their police car, stopped on the side of a remote highway and continued the attack. Papineau said he didn't go to a hospital for any treatment because he didn't want to spend "12 hours in a waiting room."

Moyse and Ens admit they questioned Papineau in the parking lot of the Birchwood Motor Hotel because they believed he might have been attempting to drive while drunk. They described Papineau as appearing "grossly intoxicated" and staggering as he made his way over to a parked vehicle where a friend of his was sitting inside. Papineau, who was not convicted of any crime, admitted he had about three drinks that night on an empty stomach.

But Schulman said the evidence didn't support the claims made by the officers. He said surveillance video of the parking lot showed Papineau displayed no signs of intoxication and appeared respectful of police.

Schulman concluded the officers had no grounds to arrest Papineau, and said the officers committed a serious breach of trust.

"They let down the many people who provided letters of character for them," Schulman said as he read from his written ruling. "They let down the victim and his family and the members of the community whom they were to serve.

"They let down the RCMP, whose members have a proud tradition of public service. By their conduct, they undermined the administration of justice and placed an extra burden on police officers."

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