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Updated: RNC officer Steve Curnew pleads guilty to violating Family Violence Act; lawyer says he was being stupid, not evil

RNC Const. Steve Curnew (right) speaks with his lawyer, Randy Piercey, in provincial court Friday morning in St. John's.
RNC Const. Steve Curnew (right) speaks with his lawyer, Randy Piercey, in provincial court Friday morning in St. John's. - Tara Bradbury

Police chief says Const. Steve Curnew will be subject to internal disciplinary process

The lawyer for a police officer charged with violating the province’s Family Violence Protection Act told the court Friday his client had been stupid on the day in question, but not evil.

RNC officer Steve Curnew, 43, pleaded guilty to violating an emergency protection order that banned him from being near his ex-spouse, her home and her property. The court heard Curnew — a former media relations officer as well as a member of the RNC’s criminal investigation division —breached that order last July, four days after it was implemented.
Curnew pulled his vehicle up in front of the woman’s home to pick up their teenage child. When he brought the child back a couple hours later, he took the woman’s dog, which had come outside, for a walk.

Crown prosecutor Nicole Hurley said Curnew’s child had told the mother Curnew was going to take the dog for a walk and after a period of time the woman told her child it was OK.

He was arrested later that day and taken to the St. John’s city lockup before being released with conditions the next day.

The emergency protection order, in which the woman had described Curnew as “unpredictable and unstable,” was withdrawn by the court in August with her consent.

“It was withdrawn on the basis of a separate agreement through a family counselling negotiator. It wasn’t withdrawn because there was no merit to it based on the complainant,” Hurley explained. “It was withdrawn in exchange for their own private agreement.”

Sentencing for the charge Curnew is facing includes a maximum of a $2,000 fine or six months in prison. Hurley suggested a fine of $1,000, noting Curnew breached the order within days after it was implemented, and, as a police officer, should have known better.

Curnew’s lawyer, Randy Piercey, suggested an absolute discharge, stressing Curnew does not have a criminal record and there is no history of any prior complaints in the couple’s 30-year relationship. 

“This has huge ramifications on this man. I would suggest this is a case where the law has gone too far,” Piercey said of Curnew. “This man is going to have great suffering over being stupid rather than evil that day. 

“I suggest the sentence shouldn’t cause him any more grief than necessary.”

When asked by Judge Lori Marshall if he had anything he wanted to say, Curnew stood and told the court there had been no issues in his relationship until the couple decided to separate, and the woman had been perpetrating “a complete slanderfest” ever since.

“The allegations in the EPO (emergency protection order) are all false,” he said, suggesting his child was in the courtroom “to verify that information.” 
Hurley objected to the Curnew’s statements and the judge agreed.

“I asked you if you had anything to say in relation to the sentencing positions that had been put forward and instead you are embarking into an area which is just not appropriate,” Marshall said. 

Marshall will deliver her sentencing decision Feb. 25.

RNC Chief Joe Boland told The Telegram Curnew is non-operational and is on leave from the RNC and is subject to internal discipline, even though he was off duty at the time he violated the court order.

“While I cannot discuss details of any internal disciplinary process for privacy reasons, I can say that even off-duty conduct can amount to ‘conduct unbecoming an RNC officer’ under the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Regulations, which is an internal disciplinary offence,” Boland said in an emailed statement. “In any case where an officer commits a breach of the criminal law or a provincial regulation, this is something that will be considered from an internal disciplinary perspective for RNC officers. Const. Curnew is subject to the same internal disciplinary process that all other officers are subject to.”

tara.bradbury@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @tara_bradbury


EARLIER STORY:

RNC Const. Steve Curnew has pleaded guilty to violating the province’s Family Violence Protection Act by disobeying an emergency protection order last summer.

On July 26, an emergency protection order was put in place by a judge at the request of his former partner in St. John’s.

Curnew was under condition to stay away from the woman, her house and property.

Four days after the order was put in place, he went to the house to pick up their child and took the dog for a walk.

He was then arrested for having violated the order.

He originally pleaded not guilty, but Friday switched his plea to guilty.

The emergency protection order has since been withdrawn with the complainant’s consent.

The charge is not a criminal offence, and the fine for a first offence is up to $2,000 or six months in prison.

Crown prosecutor Nicole Hurley requested a $1,000 fine and noted Curnew was a police officer and should have been aware of the law, pointing out that the incident occurred only four days after the order was put in place.

Curnew's defence lawyer, Randy Piercey, asked for an absolute discharge. He pointed out the emergency protection order has since been withdrawn, and said Curnew’s job is on the line, that he had taken the dog out with the woman’s knowledge, and there are huge ramifications for Curnew.

Piercey said the sentence should not cause him more grief than it already has.

"This is a case where the law went too far,” Piercey said.

Judge Lori Marshall asked Curnew if he had anything to say, but when Curnew accused the complainant of perpetrating a “complete slanderfest,” Marshall interrupted him and said he was embarking into an area that is “just not appropriate.”

She will give her sentencing decision Feb. 25.

Full story to come

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