R v Fizell, [2001] MJ No 22 (MB Prov Ct)

This is the ruling on a citation for contempt of court against the accused, Fizell. Fizell was on trial for cruelty to animals as a result of injuries to a police dog involved in his arrest for breaking and entering. During the trial, Fizell frequently interrupted and used inappropriate language. He was warned about his conduct by the trial judge and his lawyer was asked to warn him about his conduct and the possibility of a contempt citation. However, the warnings had no effect and the judge cited Fizell for contempt. He then went on to make an inappropriate comment to the judge and she ordered him to be removed from the courtroom. During the contempt proceedings the next morning, Fizell directed another inappropriate comment to the judge and was once again removed from the courtroom and cited for contempt. The matter came on for hearing and disposition before another judge. Fizell was given an opportunity to purge his contempt, but his lawyer indicated that he did not wish to do so.

The facts of the case are that the dog, under the direction of its handler, had located and held the accused, in its teeth, by his right hamstring, under a staircase where the accused was hiding in a building into which he had broken and entered. Police testimony states that Fizell suffered superficial wounds from the dog bites as a result of struggling against the dog’s grasp; this was after police had cautioned him not to fight the dog. Police evidence indicates that the dogs are trained merely to hold a suspect, not to rip or tear. While the dog held the accused, according to police evidence, the accused’s arm was hitting the dog in the head. However, it was dark, and the police admit they did not have a well-lighted view as they only had flashlights. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the dog had a cut to its right eye and a stab wound to its forehead. A screwdriver had been found where the accused had been hiding and he admitted to using it to break into the building. He denied, however, using the screwdriver as a weapon against the dog. He testifies that he was pushing the dog away from himself against the underside of the staircase which may have had nails or jagged edges.

The accused is found in contempt for his interruptions and offensive language, as well as for egregious insult directed at the trial judge. The citation itself was proof of the contempt, subject to Fizell calling evidence of a defence to the charge. However, Fizell made no attempt to show cause why he should not be held in contempt, and no cause was shown. The transcript was an adequate substitute for observing the offending conduct directly. For the first contempt Fizell was sentenced to 60 days consecutive to the sentence he was already serving. For the second contempt he was sentenced to a further 60 days consecutive to the first 60 days.

Source: Case Law

Jurisdiction: Manitoba

Topics: contemptcontempt of courtcruelty to animalsdogguiltypolice dogviolent

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