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Woman in wheelchair who bit Charlottetown police officer while drunk guilty of three charges

The RCMP has seen an increase in the number of impaired driving arrests in the province from the middle of March until June 21 and during the COVID-19 pandemic. 123RF Stock Photo
A 54-year-old P.E.I. woman was sentenced for impaired driving, refusing a breath demand and assaulting a peace officer. - RF Stock
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A paraplegic woman who bit a police officer, rammed her with a wheelchair and refused to give a breathalyzer sample has been spared a jail sentence due to her poor health.

Dr. Janice Maureen Gillis, a veterinarian, was fined $500 for the assault and ordered to pay an additional $150 towards the victim of crime fund in a case that took two years to prosecute. She was also fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $300 to the victim of crime fund for refusing to provide a breath sample – a conviction that ordinarily nets five to seven days of jail time, the woman was informed.

Chief provincial court judge Nancy Orr told Gillis her crime normally would earn three to four months' incarceration but was receiving a "significant break'' based on a recommendation from the Crown based on the woman's serious health condition.

The Crown also stayed an impaired operation of vehicle charge against Gillis.

Gillis, 54, was not in provincial court in June when Judge John Douglas found her guilty of impaired driving, refusing a breath demand and assaulting a peace officer.

The guilty verdict came two years to the day after an incident the court heard started in a parking lot on Grafton Street in Charlottetown after Gillis cut off someone on a motorcycle and then almost did the same to a second vehicle.

During the trial, the court heard testimony from several police officers who dealt with the accused that day, including one who Crown attorney Lisa Goulden said described Gillis as grossly intoxicated.

The court heard the responding officers found liquor bottles in the vehicle, including one empty wine bottle and one that was partially full.

One officer testified that as they tried to move Gillis in her wheelchair the accused kept putting the brakes on and hit their hands away when they tried to release them.

The court heard that as one officer was trying to handcuff Gillis, the accused bit her.

Goulden said Gillis was belligerent with the police and later rammed the female officer with her wheelchair at the police station where she continued her verbal abuse, cursed and called the officer a derogatory name.

It was behaviour the female officer dealt with “for hours and hours,” said Goulden who also described Gillis’s behaviour as “obstructive and belligerent".

When Gillis testified during the trial, she told the court she didn’t remember what happened in the parking lot and she denied ramming the officer with her wheelchair.

The proceedings continued without Gillis, who didn’t show up and sent her mother in her place with a letter from a doctor who said they didn’t think Gillis was healthy enough to withstand the stress of court.

Douglas said he didn’t find Gillis’s request for an adjournment reasonable and he declined to grant it.

Throughout many court dates in the last two years, Gillis has had multiple lawyers appear on her behalf and several witnesses testified.

Douglas said the Crown tried and the court did everything it could to allow Gillis to present her defence.

He granted a Crown request to proceed without Gillis present and Goulden closed her case.

After reviewing the evidence, Douglas found Gillis guilty of all three charges and he issued a warrant for her arrest, saying he couldn’t sentence Gillis without her being present.

The end of the trial also marked the last case in P.E.I. for Douglas who reached mandatory retirement age but had to finish the matter because he had already heard evidence.

Ryan.ross@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/ryanrross

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