Halifax Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais reported Feb. 27 that none of his officers stole the drugs or $100,000 that disappeared from police evidence lockers in 2015.
But Turpin Laboratories has been rooting around the website of Nova Scotia’s most powerful police oversight organization and found a document that has shaken our faith in that statement.
On Feb. 1 Ronald J. MacDonald, the director of the Serious Incident Response Team, posted a “supplemental summary” of the only criminal case to arise from the affair. In effect, it’s a mandated opportunity for SiRT to get the last word after someone they’ve charged has been prosecuted.
The document is dry and studiously neutral. If MacDonald’s got an ax to grind, there’s no indication of it. It reads like a conscientious civil servant fulfilling his duty to inform the public.
MacDonald says “ … it is SiRT policy, in accordance with the Regulations, to publish a supplemental report in cases where the facts relevant to the charge decision were not originally made public and were not subsequently disclosed during court proceedings.”
Well, THAT’s interesting right off the bat, especially since Halifax police chief Jean-Michel Blais just told the Halifax police commission that the whole thing was a bureaucratic merry mix-up and that none of his officers were blame-worthy.
I have doubts about that now, and also harbour some unease about the Public Prosecution Service. Here are some snippets from MacDonald’s summary that inspired water-cooler talk across the sprawling T-Labs campus.
MacDonald wrote that a related investigation of “Officer 1”, a Halifax cop, concluded there were sufficient grounds to lay charges.
And so SiRT laid charges of theft, breach of trust, and obstruction of justice against Officer 1 (they’re not allowed to say who he is) on January 27, 2016.
SiRT provided its file to the Public Prosecution Service (the Crown) on March 15, 2016.
Just two months later, on May 30, 2016, the Crown entered a “temporary” stay of the proceedings because it needed more time to brief Officer 1’s defence team. (See the Local Xpress, May 31, 2016, for more details.)
On January 27, 2017, — now seven months after they got the file and a year after the charges were filed– the Public Prosecution Service told SiRT that because of “issues related to delays in the prosecution of the charges”, the charges could not proceed.
Four days later Director MacDonald issued his supplementary summary. Here, in block quotes, are more the things MacDonald wrote, emphasis added by Turpin Labs.
On May 21, 2015, the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) contacted SiRT with information regarding a potential theft, breach of trust, and obstruction of justice committed by Officer 1. The allegations of theft and breach of trust related to a substance known as “cut” which went missing from an HRP exhibit locker. “Cut” is used in the illegal drug trade … The allegation of obstruction of justice relates to alleged steps taken to help a third party* avoid detection and arrest by other HRP members.
The “cut” is this case was lidocaine and is used to dilute the product.
The evidence gathered from the investigation showed that the cut went missing in late January, 2015 from an HRP exhibit locker. It was delivered by Officer 1 to another individual shortly after it was taken. Officer 1 did not dispute that he took the cut and made the delivery, but took the position that his Sergeant permitted him to do so. That was disputed by the Sergeant in question, and SiRT had gathered other evidence that questioned certain other details put forward by Officer 1.
So you can see why SiRT was keen to prosecute. They believed the Sergeant and had doubts about Officer 1. I don’t know who to believe, but this is why we have judges and courts.
So why did the Crown enter a temporary stay so quickly? And what was the Crown doing during the “temporary” stay to the point where the charges could not be re-instated.
Oh, and it was the Crown — that is, the Public Prosecution Service — that decided re-instating the charges was impossible because of its own delays. It’s odd, I dare say, for an organization whose middle name is prosecution, but it does happen.
On TV, and in real life, the decision to dismiss a charge because of undue delay is generally made by the judge in the case, and at the request of the defence. Typically, the Crown then responds with a stout explanation of how the delay was unavoidable and/or caused by the accused and/or will have no effect on the ability of the accused to defend himself. Frequently, the trial proceeds anyway.
Was SiRT’s investigation not thorough?
During the investigation, SiRT obtained statements from 20 police witnesses and five civilian witnesses. Other investigative steps included certain forensic investigations, as well as a review of documentary evidence.
Not too shabby, I’d say. Most reporters would either be fired or awarded a national award for that kind of diligence.
As noted, MacDonald played it straight in his summary. Nonetheless, his last line seems a little mournful: “As a result, Officer 1 is deemed never to have been charged with any criminal offence.”
(* The Turpin Laboratories Conspiracy Division could barely contain itself at the mention of a “third party” in MacDonald’s summary, but was told by our executive leadership team to “chill” for the time being.)