The case of a Campbellton RCMP officer charged with assault after a brutal arrest in 2021 was caught on videotape and posted on social media has been put off until January after a surprise request from the Crown on Monday.
Pierrick Caron was scheduled to enter a plea and have a trial date set, but Crown prosecutor Karen Lee advised the Campbellton provincial courtroom she wished to proceed instead through restorative justice.
Restorative justice is "considered both a philosophy and a non-adversarial, non-retributive approach to conflict and crime," according to the Department of Justice's website.
"It emphasizes healing in persons harmed, the meaningful accountability of persons responsible for causing harm, and the involvement of community members in creating healthier, safer, and stronger communities."
Caron was charged in June following an independent investigation into the 74-second arrest video, captured on July 2.
It shows an RCMP officer attempting to restrain a man squirming on the ground, later identified as André Mercier.
The officer strikes Mercier several times in the head and upper body, as Mercier cries out and another unidentified individual appears to restrain his legs.
The officer appears to stop briefly, look around, then straddle Mercier and continue to strike him.
Warning: graphic footage
WATCH: Video appears to show officer hitting man several times
Police were responding to calls about a man entering a business while wielding a stick, RCMP said at the time. The man "resisted arrest and an altercation ensued," Sgt. Mario Maillet said.
Quebec's police oversight agency, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, found there were grounds for criminal charges.
The agency submitted a report to New Brunswick's Public Prosecution Services, which found the evidence "met the standard for prosecution," and laid the charge against Caron.
Jan. 9 case management hearing
The Crown made the motion for restorative justice during a brief court appearance over the telephone.
Provincial court Judge Jacques Desjardins granted the request and a case management conference will take place on Jan. 9 at 1:30 p.m.
Leaving the court, defence lawyer Renée Roy said she was surprised by the request and admitted she did not really understand exactly what the Crown was asking for.
The Justice Department website says restorative justice helps address underlying circumstances that contributed to a crime and tries to get everyone affected by the crime to "collaboratively participate in the resolution."
Guilty of obstructing a police officer
As with all previous court appearances, Caron was not present Monday.
Last month, Mercier, 31, pleaded guilty to obstructing the work of a police officer in connection with the incident.
Crown prosecutor Mathieu Pelletier told the court RCMP received a call about a situation at the Tim Hortons on Roseberry Street. An individual made people "uncomfortable" and possibly committed theft, he said.
Upon his arrival, Caron had a polite discussion with Mercier, according to Pelletier, but things soured when he attempted to bring the suspect outside.
Judge Joanne Durette sentenced Mercier to 60 days in jail.
Mercier also pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, assault and breach of probation in connection with another incident, which occurred on July 7, 2022, and also involved RCMP officers.
While out on patrol, an officer spotted Mercier, for whom there was arrest warrant for failing to appear in court, said Pelletier. The officer called for backup and attempted to arrest Mercier. An altercation ensued with two peace officers, the prosecutor said.
Mercier received an additional 90 days in jail, increasing his total sentence to 150 days. But he had been in custody since July and each day served counts as a day-and-a-half, so he was released immediately.
Mercier, who was representing himself, told the judge that he understood his faults and that he was going to take charge.
"Drug use is your problem, Mr. Mercier," the judge said.
"Yes, I got it," replied Mercier, who left the courthouse with his personal effects in a garbage bag.