Inmate argues N.S. government negligent in jail beating incident

·2 min read
Matthew Aiken says he was beaten by another inmate at the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Pictou, N.S. (CBC - image credit)
Matthew Aiken says he was beaten by another inmate at the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Pictou, N.S. (CBC - image credit)

A Nova Scotia man is suing the provincial government for negligence, saying he was beaten up by another inmate while being held in the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Pictou.

Matthew Aiken's lawsuit alleges the province, through the attorney general, failed in its duty to protect him.

Aiken was in the provincial jail in the fall of 2017 on charges of breach, harassment and possession of cocaine. He'd been there about two weeks when he was placed in a cell with another inmate, Donavin Diggs, according to a Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision published Wednesday.

Diggs was serving time for numerous offences including assault causing bodily harm, assault, resisting a police officer and assaulting a police officer. When he was admitted to jail, Aiken was considered a low risk. Diggs, on the other hand, was assessed as a high risk, according to the decision.

Early on the evening of Nov. 29, 2017, Diggs was in a fight with another inmate. According to evidence presented in court during a hearing earlier this month, Diggs had to be restrained and handcuffed before he was returned to the cell he shared with Aiken, where the handcuffs were removed.

Because of the violent incident, the whole wing of the jail was placed in lockdown, meaning Aiken and Diggs were locked in their cell together.

'Get the hell out'

According to evidence Aiken gave at an earlier hearing, Diggs told him: "This is not gonna work for you, you and me in here, get the hell out."

Aiken said Diggs then assaulted him, breaking his nose and blackening both his eyes, causing one to swell almost completely shut.

"My face is beat to a snot, my nose is broken and crooked," Aiken testified. "I basically look like, you know, if you took a pork roast and tenderized it with a hammer."

Aiken claims jail staff saw his condition and yet did nothing about it until after a second fight later the same evening.

The province disputes that part of Aiken's story, saying there was only one fight between he and Diggs and jail staff immediately intervened.

The province went to court seeking a summary judgment, asking that Aiken's lawsuit be thrown out.

But in the ruling published Wednesday, Justice John Keith said there are serious claims in Aiken's lawsuit that need to be addressed. The judge said there needs to be another hearing as soon as possible to try to find an expeditious resolution to the case.