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Quebec City lawyer assaulted cat food thief, judge rules

|Written By Mark Cardwell

A Quebec City lawyer’s video of his aggressive citizen’s arrest of an elderly woman he caught stealing cat food on the porch of his home in early February 2013 went viral. He’s now been found guilty of assault, in part because of the video evidence.

In his ruling last Friday, Quebec Court Judge Jean Asselin found the defendant, lawyer Bernard Corbeil, had used excessive force to subdue the woman, a neighbour who had been taking the food Corbeil left out for feral cats in the Quebec City suburb of Charlesbourg.

“His muscled, aggressive intervention was completely disproportionate to the circumstance,” concluded the magistrate.

In the video, which Corbeil made and presented as proof that he had made a proper arrest, the woman is seen approaching the lawyer’s back door, then bending over to pick up a container with the cat food in it.

The lawyer suddenly rushed out of the house, put a towel over the woman’s head and threw her to the ground face first, causing a nose bleed.

Corbeil then straddled the bleeding woman and bound her hands behind her back using plastic tie wraps.

Corbeil testified that he read the woman her rights as he subdued her, then called police and gave them the video when they arrived.

However, instead of charging the neighbour, who they reportedly found to be “terrified and bloodied,” police charged Corbeil with assault.

Corbeil’s a veteran lawyer who made headlines a decade ago when he successfully defended the owners of a Quebec City swinger’s bar, called L’Orage, against charges of keeping a common bawdy-house.

In this case, Corbeil argued he had meticulously planned and executed the arrest of the cat food thief according to his rights under the Criminal Code of Canada.

But the judge found the force used “was clearly unreasonable,” since it was clear the woman was unarmed and did not pose a threat to Corbeil or his wife, who was also present.

“By foreseeing the worst during the planning stages of his strategy, the accused, in flagrant fashion, lacked both judgement and discernment,” wrote Asselin.

However he granted the lawyer an absolute discharge after the lawyer agreed to make a $500 donation to a local charity that helps troubled youth.

  • RE: Quebec City lawyer assaulted cat food thief, judge rules

    Karen Lajoie
    Missing in this story is an examination of why this elderly woman was stealing cat food off a neighbour's porch. Perhaps the focus could be on that aspect, rather than the horrifying assault. Did it not occur to anyone to ask why she needed to do this? Was it for her? Her pet? Is she is such dire financial straits this was her only solution?

    Sad all around. Perhaps a display of good judgement and empathy would have gone a lot further.
  • Peace Officer

    Andy Stuart
    As a serving police officer who regularly reads the Legal Feeds Blog, this case clearly demonstrates the knowledge and skills required of a police officer to effect an arrest, are not possessed by average citizens.

    This case has three interesting points:

    1. The planning stage was likely the lawyer expecting the worst and preplanning a fairly heavy handed arrest.

    2. The arrest which shows a failure of the lawyer to react to the change in circumstance in a dynamic situation...I doubt the lawyer would have preplanned the towel over the head and zap straps if he knew it was an elderly lady.

    3. I am not sure why a lawyer would feel the need to read the person their rights in what amounts to a citizen's arrest.

    This case should remind those lawyers, who having never actually planned or effected an arrest, when examining a police officer and picking apart a video of an arrest frame by frame it is not as easy as it looks.

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