Ambush leaves jail guard with broken nose, possible concussion

Last modified: July 4, 2022 at 4:04pm


An assault on a corrections officer in the territorial young offenders unit left the man with a broken nose, black eye, a suspected concussion and “psychological harm” that required professional help, a court heard last week.

During a sentencing hearing for one of the two teenagers charged — when details of the May incident were made public for the first time — the Youth Justice Court heard the ambush occurred in the North Slave Correctional Centre’s gymnasium, after the guard had entered the equipment room. 

The accused youth approached the guard from behind and “punched him in the face,” before his accomplice allegedly shut the door and helped administer the beating, Crown prosecutor Matthew Scott said last week. 

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The disposition of charges facing his co-accused in the ambush wasn’t immediately known.

The reason for the attack was not mentioned during the hearing, but the youth had pleaded guilty to other violent crimes in Yellowknife.

He and another teenager had recently entered the Liquor Store downtown and “grabbed several bottles of liquor” and when an employee attempted to intervene, the accused punched her in the face, said the prosecutor.

In April, an EMS worker responded to a call for service and transported the youth to Stanton Territorial Hospital. While waiting to be admitted to the third-floor psychiatric unit, “[the accused] became impatient and spat on [the EMS worker]’s shirt, said Scott.

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Last Friday, the accused teen — who can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act — received a sentence of time served plus six month’s probation after pleading guilty to assaulting a peace officer and two counts of assault. In exchange for his guilty plea, several other charges from over the past year were withdrawn by the Crown. Those included arson, various property crimes, uttering threats, and breaches of court orders.

“The parties all agree [the accused] should be released this week,” said the prosecutor, noting the six months of accumulated remand time.

The teen, now 16, had an extremely troubled childhood and is a permanent ward of the Department of NWT Health and Social Services [HSS], until he turns 19. 

Territorial Court Judge Jeannie Scott told the teen he needs to be more careful of who he spends his time with.

“They are getting you in trouble,” she said. “I want you to reflect today on the harm you have caused. Your lawyer [Nicola Langille] says you want to treat others how you want to be treated, and that you will take steps to live your life going forward with those kinds of values.”

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Judge Scott said the teen will live in a government-provided apartment when he is released, with hopes it will provide some “stability and support…for his future success.”

While on probation, the teen will have to report to a supervisor and attend counselling as directed. He is also forbidden from being at the Liquor Store downtown.

The accused youth is one of a handful of young offenders who are responsible for most of the recent Youth Criminal Justice Act charges in the territory.

Since the Act does not allow correctional custody to be used as an alternative to housing, the teen had been staying in a downtown hotel with a guard posted at his door, Cabin Radio has learned.

There is a security guard there to keep an eye on him and notify Social Services when something is amiss.

Teens such as him should be admitted to treatment centres, but he was on a waiting list of several of the southern facilities. There are no such centres in the NWT. 

Roger Shepard, a lawyer representing HSS was one of a host of government agencies present at an April youth court appearance for the youth.

“I don’t have much of an update,” said Shepard. “Certainly the Department of Health and Social Services is waiting for the results of any acceptances to programs and if the program is not federally funded, the department is standing by in order to work out a contract with [the treatment centre].”

At that April appearance, Judge Donovan Molloy spoke with the youth on the screen via video link from NSCC.

Molloy said: “You ended up getting locked up again?

The youth responded: “Yeah.”

“Are you still willing to go to treatment?”

“Yeah.”

“As I told you before, the breaches and the re-offending keep making it more difficult for the many people that are trying to help you, do you realize that?

“Yeah.”

“I know you’ve had some difficult circumstances and some difficult experiences. And you’re in a pretty tough situation. But you’re just digging your hole deeper, unfortunately.”

The youth will have to return to youth court on August 31 before Judge Scott for a progress report.

That assault in the gymnasium occurred three years after a 19-year-old inmate delivered a series of blows to a guard as the pair entered a corridor. It was considered at the time to be the most serious incident in the jail since it opened in 2004.

In that attack, the guard was not seriously injured and the inmate was later convicted.

A subsequent confidential November 2020 workplace assessment for NWT Justice from an outside consultant, found that corrections officers felt the safety of staff and inmates was being compromised by insufficient staffing to ensure guards are not alone with inmates when they should not be and that help would be available when needed.