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Mountie pleads guilty to assault

A New Brunswick Mountie who pleaded guilty Wednesday to assaulting four fellow RCMP officers says he hopes his case brings attention to the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Cpl. Ron Francis, who made national headlines last year after he complained he wasn't allowed to smoke medicinal marijuana for PTSD while in uniform, wept as he entered the pleas in provincial court in Fredericton.

Outside court, Francis said he would like to see greater awareness of the mental illness as a result of his case.

"Soldiers, police, people who do this kind of work, over time it's going to affect them," said Francis, who is on leave from the RCMP. "I want to help other members."

Francis had previously pleaded not guilty to assaulting two officers during an incident in Fredericton on Dec. 6 and not guilty to assaulting two other officers in Oromocto on Jan. 12 of this year.

He was to have stood trial Wednesday on the December charges but entered the guilty pleas to both incidents instead.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of breaching a judge's order not to consume or possess alcohol or non-prescription illicit drugs.

Provincial court heard that during the Dec. 6 incident, officers confronted Francis on a Fredericton street in an effort to take him to hospital for a mental health assessment. Francis pushed one officer, and during the ensuing scuffle, he punched another officer in the face, giving him a bloody nose.

Crown prosecutor Marc Savoie told the court Wednesday that in the Jan. 12 incident, the RCMP received a call from Francis saying that "things were not going well for him."

Police went to Francis' home and believed he was under the influence of alcohol. He was arrested for breaching the judge's order not to consume or possess alcohol.

Savoie said Francis was taken to the RCMP detachment in Oromocto where an argument began. He said Francis pushed one officer and then grabbed another officer by the shirt and pushed him.

The defence did not dispute the facts as they were read in court.

Francis was originally charged with four counts of assault, but they were reduced Wednesday to two counts. Another charge of resisting a peace officer was dropped.

Judge William McCarroll set Nov. 3 as the date for sentencing.

"I can certainly appreciate what you are going through," McCarroll told Francis. "I am looking at this whole process in regards to your long-term welfare."

Defence lawyer T.J. Burke said the fallout from PTSD is increasingly coming before the courts.

"It might not be six months, it might not be a year, but I can say with certainty that post-traumatic stress disorder is creeping into the courts and into the justice system," he said.

"There needs to be some type of provincial and federal task force that deals with these particular issues in each province."

Last November, Francis returned his red serge on orders from his superiors but accused the RCMP and the federal government of not doing enough to support officers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The RCMP said its officers who are prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge or regular uniform while taking their medication as it wouldn't portray the right message to the public.

The Canadian Press

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