OPP officer found not guilty of criminal negligence, perjury

A jury found a Lambton County OPP officer not guilty of criminal negligence and perjury Tuesday night after about 4 1/2 hours of deliberation.

SARNIA – A jury found a Lambton County OPP officer not guilty of criminal negligence and perjury Tuesday night after about 4 1/2 hours of deliberation.

OPP Const. Sean Coughlan was cleared of wrong-doing in relation to the June 22, 2016, incident where ATV driver Edward Labadie was seriously injured. Coughlan was charged in February 2017 following an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, the arm’s-length civilian oversight agency that looks into circumstances involving police that result in serious injury, sexual assault allegations or death - writes lfpress.com

Coughlan had been accused of causing a collision between his cruiser and Labadie’s ATV that resulted in Labadie’s severe injuries.

Most of Tuesday was consumed by the judge’s instructions to jurors on reasonable doubt, reviewing the evidence and explaining the decision “tree.”

It goes though each decision jurors need to make on each of the charges to reach a verdict. In making the decisions, Superior Court John Desotti told jurors “common sense will be your guide.”

Desotti also briefly reviewed the Crown and defence submission made at the end of last week.

According to defence lawyer Phillip Millar, Coughlan was doing what he should as a good officer by following a speeding vehicle creating a cloud of dust on a rural road in the southeastern corner of Lambton County. Coughlan had told his superiors he had been trying to close a gap with the vehicle but did not know it was an ATV due to the dust, said Millar, referring to a statement by Coughlan that is a trial exhibit.

Crown lawyer Peter Scrutton said the chase started on a paved road where there was no dust. The cruiser’s recorded data indicated it was speeding at 93 kilometres an hour in a 50-kilometre zone on a paved road. Labadie had sped down the same paved road before turning onto the gravel road.

“The chase is on. . . . He was not in performance of his duties. He was chasing an ATV that he is not allowed to do,” said Scrutton, noting it’s a violation of OPP policy to pursue an ATV.

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