Videos showing prison guards beating an inmate were released in court after their attempt to hide them failed


Videos showing guards from the Saint John Regional Correctional Center beating an inmate were released in Fredericton Provincial Court this week following a failed attempt by the province to block the public from seeing them.

Videos show Scott Morrison being tackled to the ground by two guards, followed by other guards who assault and beat him while he was being held in the jail on September 27.

Morrison was in pre-trial detention awaiting the outcome of his trial for eight drug trafficking offences.

In October, Judge Cameron Gunn found him guilty of the offenses and Morrison filed an application to have his sentence reduced due to the violation of his rights guaranteed by prison.

Morrison sought to have the videos released in court to support his claim, but the attorney general’s office filed its own petition on Nov. 3 asking that the videos be sealed and members of the public and media be barred from viewing them. .

The province argued in its application and through affidavits that playing the videos in court could violate the privacy rights of other inmates who may be seen in the videos and could compromise prison security by showing tactical response to an emergency.

After hearing arguments from a lawyer representing the Attorney General’s Office and a lawyer representing CBC News, Gunn rejected the government’s request on Tuesday, citing the importance of the open court principle.

Guards from the Saint John Regional Correctional Center can be seen hitting Scott Morrison while he was on the ground surrounded by no less than six guards. (Fredericton Provincial Court)

“The ability for people to watch the videos, which Mr. Morrison says show the assault by correctional officers, can help them understand my decision, whatever it is,” Gunn said.

“Such an understanding can only help improve the reputation of the administration of justice. Hiding the video from the public could serve to diminish public confidence in the justice system.”

Pictures show punches

Following Gunn’s decision to deny the province’s request, the court resumed with Sheldon Currie, the province’s chief superintendent of corrections, called to testify about what was shown in the videos as they were played.

The videos included CCTV footage showing different angles in the jail, as well as footage from a camera held by one of the guards, Currie said.

LOOK | This is the video that NB justice officials did not want the public to see. Warning: this video contains graphic content

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Saint John Jail guards seen tackling and punching inmate on CCTV video

Videos show Scott Morrison being swarmed by guards while he was remanded to the facility in late September.

In the CCTV footage, two guards can be seen walking Morrison up a flight of stairs and to his cell door.

One of the guards is seen opening the door, which Morrison then slams.

The door opens again and as Morrison enters, a guard can be seen pushing him inside.

Morrison comes out and approaches the two guards, and a fight ensues, with one guard holding Morrison around the shoulders, and the second guard grabbing him by the legs and dragging him to the ground.

One of the guards can then be seen hitting Morrison while he is on the ground.

Other guards from another part of the prison can be seen gathering and then running towards the area where Morrison was.

None of the CCTV footage contained audio.

The court then showed footage from the handheld camera, which Currie said guards must use whenever tactical emergency response is triggered.

This footage includes audio and shows up to six guards crouching over Morrison.

From the angle of this recording, Morrison is not visible at first, but someone can be heard shouting “You are resisting”, and two guards can be seen knocking several times in Morrison’s direction.

Morrison only comes into direct view of the camera when the guards walk away and lift him off the ground.

The knuckles on the right hand of one of the guards seen beating Morrison appear to be bloody.

bloody knuckle
The knuckles on the right hand of one of the guards seen on video appear to be red and bloody. (Fredericton Provincial Court)

Morrison’s face has red marks as he walks in handcuffs through what appears to be a common area, down a hallway and into a room, where he sits with the door closed.

Currie said the incident was reviewed by the prison’s use of force expert and then reviewed by the prison’s professional standards unit.

Currie did not say if there were any findings of wrongdoing by the guards, or if any of them were punished.

Morrison’s Account

Morrison was also in court and took the witness stand to testify about what happened.

He said the incident stemmed from an interaction he had with a prison nurse.

He said he asked her for bandages, but she didn’t give him any, so he put them back in his cart and asked her to get another type of bandage for him.

He said the guards thought he was disrespecting him, so they ordered him to leave the nurses’ station and return to his cell.

scott morrison
Photos taken of Scott Morrison immediately after an altercation with guards at the Saint John jail show him with cuts and bruises to his face. (Fredericton Provincial Court)

Morrison said when he got to his cell door, one of the guards pushed him inside and he came out because he was upset and wanted to speak to a supervisor.

He said he was then tackled to the ground and punched three times by one of the guards, before other guards rushed to the scene.

“One of the guards was trying to cripple me or something,” Morrison said.

“He hit me in the back of my leg and it really hurt, but he was focused there and I’m holding my pants up. A guard punched me in the face, and I was remember that other guards arrived after that.”

Throughout his time on the court, Morrison said, his hands were behind his back and he was complying with guards.

“I didn’t fight them earlier, and I wasn’t fighting them then.”

morrison beating
Morrison is seen with cuts, bruises and marks on his face and neck after the altercation. (Fredericton Provincial Court)

Morrison said the incident left him with a black eye and scratches and marks on his face and neck.

He said he asked a prison guard to take pictures of his face, which were shown in court. Photos showed red marks and bruises on his face and neck.

He said that following the incident, he now had headaches more often and needed more time to read books. He said his leg is also still injured since the guards tackled him.

Defense pleads for 29-month sentence

As part of sentencing submissions, the court heard Morrison reaffirm previous guilty pleas to separate charges of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, two counts of possession of stolen property and one count of fleeing from police, which stemmed from an incident in Fredericton on August 7, 2021.

The Crown and Ben Reentovich, Morrison’s attorney, have recommended a 90-day sentence for those charges.

Combined with the eight drug trafficking offences, Reentovich said, he believed Morrison deserved a 29-month sentence, which included a six-month reduction as relief for the beatings he had suffered.

“There’s no need to repeatedly punch him in the face, grab him by the throat. You saw the marks in those photos,” Reentovich said.

“This response to an inmate not cooperating with me strikes me as disproportionate and unreasonable, and is one that requires redress.”

Crown prosecutor Brian Munn said he recommended that Morrison be sentenced to between three and five years in prison.

Gunn said he would reserve his decision until Nov. 28.

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