Agriculture minister's executive assistant won't stand trial for road worker assault

The executive assistant to cabinet minister Ross Wetmore will not go to trial for the alleged assault of a provincial road worker last summer.

Shawn Douthwright will enter the alternative measures program and, if he's successful, the charge will be dropped and he will have no criminal record.

His lawyer, Kelly Lamrock, said his client is delighted.

"It would have been our position at trial that this did not belong in criminal court and that will be the result, that it's not a criminal act," Lamrock said outside Moncton provincial court Friday.

Douthwright was charged with assaulting Scott McLaughlan on July 4, 2019, at a work site outside of Moncton. He pleaded not guilty on Jan. 24, but court was adjourned before a trial date was set to permit the Crown and defence to meet. 

Judge Luc J. Labonté set aside the matter in hope it could be resolved.

CBC

According to the Department of Public Safety, the alternative measures program may be offered where sufficient evidence exists that an offence has been committed. Eligible adults must "take responsibility for the act that forms the basis of the offence."

Lamrock said a program is tailored around the individual and, in Douthwright's case, could amount to volunteer work or to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. 

Differing stories

Lamrock offered a vastly different characterization of the incident than what the initial court documents alleged. 

McLaughlan's union, CUPE Local 1190, previously explained he alleged Douthwright drove up to a Department of Transportation work site on Route 112.

McLaughlan was among the workers gathered at the site when Douthwright and Wetmore, the minister of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, stopped. Wetmore "shouted at us, insulted us, using derogatory words and saying road workers were incompetent," McLaughlan is quoted as saying in a union release. 

Philip Drost/CBC News

The release went on to allege the situation escalated when Douthwright grabbed McLaughlin by the shoulders and shouted an expletive at him.

On Friday, Lamrock said it was a disagreement over how the road looked.

"He put his hand on someone's shoulder thinking he was calming things down," Lamrock said. "The other fellow took it different and [Douthwright] regrets that and he's glad to put it behind them."

Douthwright still in role

He described his client as a "casualty of the high temperature between the union and the government."

The allegations were raised in the legislature in November when two Liberal MLAs asked for more information about the incident and suggested Wetmore step down from cabinet while it was being resolved.

Wetmore would only say the matter had been dealt with.

At the time, Premier Blaine Higgs said he couldn't delve into details because of privacy issues but he was aware of an incident. 

"We feel that the disciplinary action was suitable for the situation and that it was done promptly," Higgs said.

But he did not say what disciplinary action was taken. 

Lamrock said, as he understands, Douthwright remains in his executive assistant position.

Union officials could not be immediately reached for comment.