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Charge laid in alleged jail gaybashing

Accused due in court next week

Credit: Shauna Lewis photo

An assault charge has been laid in connection with an alleged attack on a gay man in a Lower Mainland jail this summer.

“I can confirm that a charge has been approved in the case, and a Mark Andrew Sarsfield is facing a charge of assault,” Crown spokesperson Neil MacKenzie told Xtra on Sept 14.

Brian Payette claims corrections officers at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre insufficiently protected him in July when a fellow inmate allegedly gaybashed him in his cell.

Payette says he was punched in the head during an initial altercation with another inmate and was consequently placed in a new cell, where he alleges he was assaulted a second time.

“My life was in jeopardy,” Payette claims. “He came into my room and started beating me, and you can’t do that. He started bashing me and said, ‘I told you to leave, faggot.’”

Payette says officers took control of the situation in three minutes and gave him medical attention, but he believes it shouldn’t have taken them so long to respond.

Payette, 46, was taken into police custody at the end of July after he allegedly breached a court order to stay away from a particular area of the city. The order was the result of an ongoing dispute with an acquaintance.

MacKenzie says it’s too soon to say whether Crown prosecutors will seek a hate crime designation in the case.

“For a court to consider such motivation as an aggravating circumstance, and therefore something that should be reflected in an increased sentence, the judge must be satisfied that the motivation has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the evidence led in the case, or admitted by the accused,” he says.

Sarsfield is expected to appear in provincial court in Port Coquitlam on Sept 19.