A Prince Albert police officer who pepper-sprayed a suspect while he was locked in a cell did not use excessive force, according to a recent court decision.
Susan Noel Snell, a Prince Albert police officer with more than 20 years’ experience, was charged with assault with a weapon after she sprayed a suspect, Gabe Ross, with pepper spray while he was locked in a cell on July 8, 2014.
Snell was acquitted following a trial in 2015, and the Crown appealed the ruling. The Crown’s appeal was dismissed late last month.
According to court documents, Ross was intoxicated and struggled with officers from his arrest until he was placed into a cell. Even after he was locked up, Ross allegedly spat out of his cell several times. When Snell attempted to speak through the bars to calm him down, he prepared to spit on her and she pepper sprayed him in self-defence.
“She felt he was screwing up his face to spit on her and she immediately brought up her OC spray [pepper spray] and depressed a one-second burst to prevent that from occurring,” Judge Daryl Labach wrote in his decision.
At Snell’s 2015 trial, the Crown argued Snell had sprayed Ross to punish him for his behaviour, and not in self-defence. In their appeal, the Crown argued the trial judge “erred in regards to what constitutes reasonable force” and failed to properly apply the law to the facts heard.
Labach’s decision found the trial judge’s initial ruling to be correct, as the evidence indicated Snell used the pepper spray defensively and not in anger. Labach agreed that using the spray was reasonable under the circumstances, and dismissed the Crown's appeal.
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