Province applies to block access to video showing alleged jailhouse assault by guards

The province on Wednesday filed the application in Fredericton provincial court, asking that video from inside the Saint John jail, along with photos, be sealed in court, and that members of the public be excluded from the court room when they're shown. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)
The province on Wednesday filed the application in Fredericton provincial court, asking that video from inside the Saint John jail, along with photos, be sealed in court, and that members of the public be excluded from the court room when they're shown. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)

The Office of the Attorney General is attempting to block public access to jailhouse surveillance video that allegedly shows guards assaulting a man while in custody at the Saint John Regional Correction Centre.

The province on Wednesday filed the application in Fredericton provincial court, asking that video from inside the Saint John jail, along with photos, be sealed in court, and that members of the public be excluded from the court room when they're shown.

The videos are at the centre of an application for Charter relief filed by Scott Morrison, who alleges he was assaulted by guards while on remand at the jail on Sept. 27.

Morrison was charged with eight drug trafficking offences in June 2021 in Fredericton, and in October, Fredericton provincial judge Cameron Gunn found him guilty on all charges.

With Morrison set to be sentenced, he filed an application for Charter relief, arguing his right to security of person was breached and that he should be remedied.

Seeking to obtain surveillance footage showing the alleged assault, Ben Reentovich, Morrison's lawyer, filed an application for Sheldon Currie, the province's chief superintendent of correctional services, to be subpoenaed and required to attend court as he possesses the videos showing the alleged assault.

"I am concerned that if a subpoena is not issued for Mr. Currie to attend with the video and photos, then the court will be left without the best evidence to rule on Mr. Morrison's application," Reentovich wrote, in an attached affidavit.

Morrison's application for Charter relief was scheduled to be heard in court Thursday, but the province's application to have it sealed came a day earlier.

Province says video violates privacy of other prisoners

Currie, along with a lawyer representing the province, appeared in Fredericton provincial court on Thursday to make arguments for the application.

In an affidavit attached to the province's application, Currie confirmed "surveillance videos depicting some of the events surrounding the alleged assault exist," including CCTV video not containing sound, and handheld video, which does contain sound.

However, Currie argues that the videos show other inmates who were in the jail at the time, along with audio that includes "utterances of their names."

"It is my belief that showing these videos in open court will violate the privacy rights of the inmates depicted in same," Currie wrote.

"It is my belief that the Department of Justice and Public Safety has a duty to protect the privacy rights, however limited, of the inmates depicted in these surveillance videos."

Arguing for 6-month sentence reduction

Before the arguments could be heard on the Office of the Attorney General's application, Brunswick News asked for an adjournment of the hearing so they could consult legal counsel.

CBC News has filed an objection to the province's application.

Gunn granted the adjournment until Nov. 22, but decided to proceed with sentencing submissions for Morrison from both the Crown and his defence.

Crown prosecutor Nina Johnsen said considering Morrison had previously been convicted of similar drug offences in 2018, she recommended he be sentenced to three to five years.

Reentovich said Morrison has shown willingness to be rehabilitated, adding that since his time in jail, he's been sober and away from peers who steered him toward drugs.

On the Charter remedy being sought, Reentovich said no one should be assaulted in jail, particularly when still presumed innocent, as was the case for Morrison.

He said with the alleged assault, Morrison's sentence should be reduced by at least six months, with his ultimate recommendation being for a 26-month sentence.

"It could be six [months], it could be more. I'll leave it to the court on that, depending on what we see in the video," Reentovich said.

"Again, Ms. Johnsen and I are at a disadvantage at this point since we haven't seen it."

Court will resume on Nov. 22 for arguments on the province's application.