A St. Lawrence man has been acquitted of an assault charge stemming from a disagreement over the hiring practices at the Canada Fluorspar Inc. mine in St. Lawrence.
Brian Clarke had been charged with assault after he punched acquaintance Troy Beck in the face, leaving him with a broken nose, black eye, split lip, and cut on the back of the head, but a judge has ruled Clarke acted in self-defence.
The two men were among a group of people who spent the afternoon and evening of Jan. 15 drinking and playing darts in a friend’s shed in St. Lawrence.
The court heard Beck had been part of a group of protesters who had blocked the road to the mine for a period of time in March 2017. The blockade had prevented Clarke and his family from driving on and off their street, and it was a source of friction between them.
At the end of the night, when it was just Beck, Clarke and their host left, Clarke struck Beck in the face, knocking him to the floor. Beck testified he had been sitting at a table when Clarke sucker-punched him, knocking him unconscious, and that when he came to, Clarke was gone.
Protest over hiring at Canada fluorspar mining project in St. Lawrence
Beck said he called a family member to come get him and went to the hospital the following day. Hospital staff called the police.
Under cross-examination, Beck said he hadn’t touched, smacked or otherwise “tormented” Clarke that night, but may have kissed him on the head while passing by his chair on the way back from the washroom.
On the stand, Clarke told the court Beck and the other man had spoken about organizing another protest at the mine, and he told them he didn’t want to talk about it. Clarke said Beck got up from his chair and came over to where he was sitting, leaned down, and whispered in his ear, saying he would never forget how Clarke had not supported the protest and it was a perfect opportunity to beat him up.
Clarke said he jumped up and Beck punched him in the chest, so he struck Beck in the nose. After a couple punches back and forth, Clarke said, the other man intervened and told him to leave, so he did.
“Let me begin by stating clearly that I do not believe Troy Beck’s version of events,” Judge Harold Porter said in his written verdict of June 19, noting the layout of the furniture in the shed would have made it impossible for Clarke to have punched Beck in the face from where the two were sitting. Porter also pointed out the testimony of the third man in the shed had corroborated Clarke’s evidence.
“The nature of the threat is clear: Beck threatened to beat the shit out of the accused,” Porter wrote, quoting from Clarke’s testimony. The imminence of the threat was also clear, the judge ruled, since Beck had been leaning over Clarke.
“The Crown has not persuaded me that some use of force to get Beck away from the accused was not warranted,” Porter wrote. “On the contrary, although there is no onus of proof on him, the accused has made a compelling case for his use of force to defend himself.”
While using force is not condoned, Porter wrote, the law allows for proportionate force to be used in cases of self-defence. He acquitted Clarke of the assault charge.