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An appeals court has ruled that a Calgary police officer’s prison sentence was justified.

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The 30-day jail sentence imposed by an appeals judge on Const. Alex Dunn for assaulting a handcuffed woman during an arrest was appropriate, the province’s highest court ruled Wednesday.

In a split decision, a three-judge panel of the Alberta Court of Appeal agreed with a lawyer for the Calgary Police Association that officers convicted of assault causing bodily harm do not automatically go to prison.

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Justices Peter Martin and Jolaine Antonio said Superior Court Judge Nancy Dilts did not err in finding that Dunn’s original 30-day conditional sentence was insufficient, while Judge Frans Slatter said she should not have interfered with the sentence.

But all three agreed with attorney Alias ​​Sanders, who argued that Dilts’ comments suggested that probation sentences for officers who assault suspects no longer reflected societal values, had changed the range of appropriate punishments and should not mean that officers who commit abuse automatically went to prison.

“The unjustified use of force by a police officer, in the absence of dangerous or rapidly changing circumstances, undermines confidence in law enforcement and the rule of law,” Antonio and Martin wrote.

“To help repair the reputation of our institutions, a proportionate response from the sentencing court is essential. An inadequate response is likely to have the opposite effect.”

But they said that does not mean prison is necessary to achieve that goal.

“In sum, a police officer convicted of an unprovoked assault resulting in injury is in no better position than any other citizen convicted of the same offence with respect to sentencing,” they wrote.

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“You can expect a prison sentence, and not always as nominal as the one imposed by the appellate judge,” they said of Dilts’ ruling, in which Dunn was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a sentence she later suspended due to the passage of time and the fact that Dunn had already served a conditional sentence.

Initially, Judge Michelle Christopher sentenced Dunn to a 30-day suspended sentence, including 15 days of house arrest.

This image from court video shows Calgary police officer Alexander Dunn after he forced black suspect Dalia Kafi face down on the floor. Calgary Court Evidence

While finding that Dilts had erred in overturning the Supreme Court judge’s ruling, Slatter also said a conditional sentence was still possible in such cases.

“There is no rule that a prison sentence is always mandatory, but there is also no rule that a prison sentence is never appropriate,” he said.

“It has long been recognized that an assault by a police officer involves a breach of trust and that detained persons, especially when handcuffed, are in a vulnerable position. The dominant sentencing principles are denunciation and deterrence,” Slatter wrote.

“It is appropriate for judges to reflect changing social values ​​when deciding sentences, provided they do so in accordance with the sentencing principles contained in the Criminal Code and case law, applied fairly.”

Dunn was convicted of assault occasioning bodily harm by throwing Dalia Kafi face down on the floor after she was arrested on a minor offence.

Kafi later died of a drug overdose, and the attack and subsequent sentencing became a subject of controversy among members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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