Man says he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone when he bit Corner Brook corrections officer
Was it a case of self-defence or is a man exaggerating his disabilities as a defence for his actions?
That’s what Judge Wayne Gorman will have to consider as he weighs the evidence heard in provincial court in Corner Brook on Thursday during the trial of William (Billy) Woolridge.
Woolridge, 44, is charged with assaulting a peace officer and breach of an undertaking.
He was arrested on Dec. 22, 2016, just hours after returning to the province, on a warrant for failure to attend court in St. John’s.
Woolridge’s vision impairment was clear to the arresting Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer, who testified that he helped him down some stairs. The officer also testified that Woolridge asked questions about what was happening, but felt he understood.
Once at the Corner Brook lockup, corrections officers began the intake process, and video shown in court shows a co-operative Woolridge taking off his coat and boots and handing them to the officers.
The arresting RNC officer and two correctional officers present at the time, one of whom is the alleged victim, testified Woolridge’s personal belongings, including medications for epilepsy and asthma, were laid out on a counter in front of him.
They said when Woolridge was told he could not take his medications into the cell with him, he became agitated and was adamant he was taking them.
He’s seen in the video grabbing the medications off the counter and raising his clutched hands across his chest. Corrections officers on either side of him attempt to get the medications out of his hands by taking hold of his arms. As this happens, Woolridge bends forward and bites into the hand of one of the corrections officers.
In the struggle, they all fall to the floor and it’s only then that the alleged victim is able to free his thumb, which he testified was entirely in Woolridge’s mouth.
The corrections officer was treated at hospital for injuries to his thumb. He had to take antibiotics for 14 days and experienced a lack of sensation to the top of his knuckle for several weeks, he said.
Woolridge testified he could not hear what was being said to him and felt he was being ganged up on.
He admitted he wouldn’t let them take the medications, and said it was because he needed to use them. And said he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone.
In his submission, Woolridge’s lawyer, Gary Kearney, suggested his client acted in selfdefence. Given his blindness, he said, Woolridge could not identify the victim as a corrections officer and did not know who was touching him.
He also questioned whether taking medications from an accused was a practice or a policy.
The victim testified it was something they always did, but could not indicate if there was a written policy.
Crown prosecutor Adam Sparkes said Woolridge didn’t like the explanation of why he couldn’t keep his medications and that’s when he got angry.
He said biting the officer was deliberate and no accident.
Sparkes said there was something not right in Woolridge’s evidence about his hearing. Woolridge said he could not hear the officer speaking next to him, but he could hear the rattling of the pill bottle.
“I believe he’s exaggerating quite substantially his ability to hear in court and he’s using that as a defence.”
Woolridge was also able to pick up the pill bottle from the counter without fumbling and put it in an officer’s face, yet he told the court he can only see something if it’s right in front of his nose, Sparkes said.
Sparkes said he has no doubt Woolridge has a vision impairment, but that he is exaggerating it.
Sparkes said Woolridge’s evidence should be rejected in its entirety.
Gorman will render his decision in the case on Sept. 18.
William (Billy) Woolridge during a break in his trial in provincial court in Corner Brook on Thursday.