WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.
Hamilton police officer Brian Wren is serving 18 months probation for assaulting an Indigenous man who has been arrested.
At Wren’s sentencing Thursday, Ontario Court Judge Bruce Pugsley described Wren’s actions as “mistreating a helpless prisoner.”
Wren was the acting sergeant of a plainclothes police unit when he assaulted Patrick Tomchuk last May.
Tomchuk was already on the ground, “unwilling and possibly unconscious”, handcuffed and restrained by several other officers when Wren kicked him multiple times in the head and face, Judge Pugsley said.
Wren kicked Tomchuk so hard he broke his own toe, Judge Pugsley noted.
“The defendant did not need any help,” Judge Pugsley told the court on a Zoom call. “The violence used by the defendant was not reasonable in any way. A person can die from being kicked in the head.”
Judge denies Wren’s request for dismissal
Justice Pugsley rejected the defense’s request to release Wren – an admission of guilt but no recorded conviction when he completes his probation. This type of sentence would mean Wren has no criminal record, making it more likely he can continue working as a police officer, Judge Pugsley said.
“A dismissal would send the wrong message that there is one criminal path for the police and another for the public,” Judge Pugsley said. “Consider if the tables were turned, if a member of the public was found guilty of kicking a police officer in the head and on the ground.”
Wren is currently suspended from the Hamilton Police Department. A disciplinary hearing will be held at a later date where the Hamilton Police Department will determine whether Wren will be fired or continue as an officer.
Tomchuk and his family were not present at the sentencing, but at the hearing earlier this month he told CBC Hamilton that he would be “disgusted” if Wren did not serve jail time.
Phrase ‘lower end of the spectrum’
Both the Crown and the defense recommended Wren serve 18 months of probation, which Justice Pugsley said Thursday was on the “lower end of the sentencing spectrum.”
While judges have the power to impose harsher sentences, Judge Pugsley declined to do so. He said he believed Wren had an “immaculate and good record” as a police officer prior to this attack. Justice Pugsley also said Wren, who pleaded guilty to assault, showed he took responsibility for his actions.
Wren’s defense previously said Wren is Indigenous and requested that a Gladue report be prepared.
Gladue principles require sentencing to take into account the circumstances of an Indigenous person’s life.
Aboriginal Legal Services rejected Wren’s request for the report citing lack of evidence of his Indigenous identity, Judge Pugsley said Thursday. While he was willing to take Wren’s Métis ancestry into account, it seemed to have little bearing on his upbringing, actions, or police career.