Investigation ‘got off to a very bad start right off the bat’
of the case.
“Their investigation was marred by procedural errors, neglect, lack of diligence, and failure to provide the Crown with the appropriate deliverables in a timely manner,” he said.
He also said investigators failed to conduct appropriate interviews or, if they did carry them out, to make appropriate record of them. One example was the possibility of another person being inside the home, but there was no indication police followed up on that possibility, or even why it was dropped.
Mitchell was also tasked with looking at the capabilities of the Truro Police Service today, which he said is a much different force than in 2005.
“I’m quite satisfied with the current capacity to deal with any kind of case, major cases included,” said Mitchell.
That’s because of a number of things, including a memorandum of understanding with the RCMP whereas a member of the Truro Police Service is embedded with the RCMP’s major crime unit in the area. That officer, said Mitchell, gets regular exposure and experience in major crimes, which they can then share with their colleagues. The Truro Police Service can also call on the RCMP when they need a coordinated team of investigators to assist on major crimes.
Along with the police handling of the investigation, Mitchell looked at the review done by the Department of Justice. He said any similar investigations should see an order made under Section 7 of the Police Act, which would give investigators access to more documents, including internal personnel files.
While Mitchell’s review found the investigation was handled poorly, he said it’s impossible to say the outcome would have been any different if it been better handled.
“It’s impossible to know what, if any, relevant evidence might have been found and there’s always the possibility that if they did find evidence it might have been exonerating evidence. You have to look at that as well,” he said.
Mitchell is making a number of recommendations as a result of his review, which Justice Minister Diana Whalen said, through a news release, would be accepted.
The report recommends the Department of Justice:
--conduct regular audits of municipal police services, including Truro, to ensure they maintain professional standards
-- ensure small municipal police services have ready access to trained support and assistance in investigating major crimes
--in future internal reviews of police investigations, Justice department staff be provided authority under Sec. 7 of the Police Act
-- police investigators seek out legal advice from the Crown counsel as soon as practical during a major crime investigation