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N.S. premier seeks probe of possible criminality by police in Assoun case

Glen Assoun, the Nova Scotia man who spent almost 17 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, his lawyer Sean MacDonald and Ron Dalton, right, from the advocacy group Innocence Canada, stand outside Supreme Court in Halifax on Friday, July 12, 2019. Nova Scotia's justice minister says he's waiting for a ruling on whether he has a conflict of interest before commenting on revelations that the RCMP erased evidence in the case of a man wrongfully convicted of murder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan.
Glen Assoun, the Nova Scotia man who spent almost 17 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, his lawyer Sean MacDonald and Ron Dalton, right, from the advocacy group Innocence Canada, stand outside Supreme Court in Halifax on Friday, July 12, 2019. Nova Scotia's justice minister says he's waiting for a ruling on whether he has a conflict of interest before commenting on revelations that the RCMP erased evidence in the case of a man wrongfully convicted of murder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia’s premier says his government will ask for an independent investigation into the destruction of evidence by police in the case of a man who spent almost 17 years in prison before being declared innocent.

Glen Assoun, 64, also lived under strict parole conditions for almost five more years before a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling in March 2019 reversed his 1999 conviction for the murder of Brenda Way.

Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters today he’s asked the province’s independent police watchdog, the Serious Incident Response Team, to assess whether there was any criminal misconduct by police.

In July 2019, a federal Justice Department report revealed an RCMP unit that included Halifax police officers had destroyed a constable’s database of information about other suspects, along with physical evidence the officer had gathered to back up his case.

Click to play video 'Report on wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun gets released' Report on wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun gets released
Report on wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun gets released

The destruction of evidence occurred prior to Assoun’s 2006 appeal hearing, which he lost.

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The Mounties’ have cited an internal review about the destruction of former Const. Dave Moore’s work, and have said there was “no malicious intent.”

McNeil says if the watchdog determines such an inquiry is not in its mandate, then the province would “look at what are the other options for review of that process.”

“I’ve asked the minister (of Justice) to refer this file to Serious Incident Response Team, the independent agency in this province,” McNeil said following a cabinet meeting. “They will assess whether or not this is criminal in nature. I’ve asked the minister to do that.”

Read more: Assoun case shows police accountability in wrongful convictions lacking: experts

The watchdog agency has a mandate that includes investigations of matters of “significant public interest” stemming from the actions of police officers.

Agency director Felix Cacchione said today his office hasn’t received a request to investigate the case, “so it’s inappropriate to comment at this time.”

Cacchione, a former judge in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, has said in an earlier interview with The Canadian Press that he felt the case falls outside his office’s mandate, as it allegedly occurred before SiRT was created.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2020.

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