Niverville man files complaint against RCMP
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
A Niverville man accused of assaulting a police officer during a traffic stop last spring has filed a formal complaint against the RCMP after a judge said the charge shouldn’t have been laid.
Lyall Hudson, 52, was pulled over in Niverville on April 7 because the licence plate on the vehicle he was driving didn’t match the one it was registered to.
In a news release a few days later, RCMP said the officer had approached the driver, who became aggressive and threatened him. The officer informed him he was under arrest for uttering threats, but Hudson resisted and began to fight, the release said.
He was handcuffed and charged with assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and uttering threats.
But at a Jan. 12 hearing in front of provincial court Judge Ryan Rolston, those charges were stayed after discussions between Crown prosecutor Mark Lafreniere and defence lawyer Kerry Unruh.
Hudson pleaded guilty to a provincial traffic offence for displaying the wrong plate and was given a judicial reprimand.
Based on the facts in front of him, Rolston said at the hearing, there was no basis for criminal charges.
Unruh said he had never seen a similar circumstance since he began practising law in 1996, a period that has, since 2008, included work as an independent prosecutor.
“It’s one of those scenarios where the Crown was concerned enough to drop the criminal charges that were laid in exchange for a very minor offence under the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Act,” he said in an interview. “Which… how many times have you seen that happen?”
A farmer, mechanic and former curling coach, Hudson said the incident and the press release naming him last year have negatively affected his life and his children’s lives in the small community.
“I don’t feel vindicated,” he said. “They made it public information… it has changed my life. Everything, personal relationships, business relationships.”
Last week, Hudson and Unruh filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, requesting the independent agency investigate the incident and further dealings Hudson and the officer had.
Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel said recently that police respect the outcome of court proceedings and staying charges in court is not unusual.
“Those charges are laid in good faith, based on evidence we have at the time,” she said.
Any complaint made to the commission will be reviewed and assessed, and, if applicable, “other processes will then be initiated,” Seel said Tuesday.
“Any complaint that has been made and is in process cannot be discussed as there is an ongoing review or investigation taking place, which we do not want to impede in any way.”
At the hearing, Lafreniere said the simple traffic stop because of the wrong licence plate turned into a “very concerning incident.” Hudson’s vehicle also had a broken headlight, he said.
The altercation was caught on the RCMP cruiser’s dash camera, but without audio.
“We certainly took issue with the fact that the officer didn’t have grounds to arrest. Mr. Hudson got pulled over because he didn’t have the right licence plate on his vehicle — he hadn’t got around to changing the plate. That’s what necessitated the stop; it was a valid stop, but the matter escalated with the police officer very quickly,” Unruh said.
Hudson and his estranged wife are embroiled in a custody dispute and he was charged in December with two counts of assault, forcible confinement and harassment for alleged domestic incidents dating back to 2018. The charges haven’t been heard in court.
He alleges the same officer arrested him for those offences as in the prior incidents, which Unruh said in the complaint letter was “more punitive than necessary.”
In August 2021, Hudson had accused his estranged wife of domestic violence, but no charges were laid, according to court records. He alleges he had tried to give the responding St. Pierre Jolys detachment RCMP officer further statements about his wife, but was rebuffed, and when the charges weren’t laid, tried to find the officer to file a complaint.
He said wasn’t able to track him down at the detachment. He had transferred to the Eastman traffic services unit, court heard.
It was the same officer who pulled him over in Niverville in early April, about two weeks after he tried to find him to file the complaint.
Lafreniere told court the constable had no recollection of Hudson, who recognized him.
“The difficulty is Mr. Hudson was really upset, obviously, as a result of the previous dealings. He continued to speak, and this is where things escalated, ultimately resulting in criminal charges. Some words that were said,” Lafreniere said.
“Mr. Hudson was then forcibly removed from his vehicle by the RCMP officer, and the manner in which that occurred caused Mr. Hudson to fall on top of the RCMP officer, and things just went from bad to worse.”
After exchanging words about the prior incident and getting out of the vehicle to walk home after the officer said he was impounding it, Hudson went back inside to get personal items and then said something like, “Now I know where to find you,” in a tone not intended as a threat before being removed and the altercation starting, he later told the Free Press.
Lafreniere noted in court that Hudson did not strike the officer and a passerby intervened. In the complaint obtained by the Free Press, Unruh wrote that the constable “violently and aggressively” reached in the driver’s window to try to remove him from the vehicle.
“Mr. Hudson did nothing more than try and defend himself and keep (the constable) at arm’s length,” he wrote. “Ultimately, (the constable) who is much larger in stature than Mr. Hudson, got on top of Mr. Hudson by employing ‘strikes.’”
Lafreniere said after taking over the file from another prosecutor, and extensive meetings with the officer and Unruh, he took into account the prior dealings between the two and Hudson’s lack of a criminal record.
“We could have litigated a technical legal argument about whether something amounted to a threat, which gave the officer the legal authority to then engage in certain actions,” Lafreniere said in court.
“The Crown, myself, I didn’t feel that was the proper way to go in these circumstances.”
Further, Unruh alleged in the complaint, Hudson was parked at a gas station on Jan. 2 when the same constable drove past in his cruiser, turned around and pulled Hudson over.
“There was nothing suspicious with Mr. Hudson’s behaviour or anything of concern that would warrant the officer’s attention,” wrote Unruh.
“(The constable’s) purpose was nothing more than to harass Mr. Hudson further.”
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.