N.S. police watchdog now investigating police actions in Glen Assoun’s wrongful conviction

Glen Assoun, the Nova Scotia man who spent almost 17 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, stands outside Supreme Court in Halifax on Friday, July 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia’s police watchdog is investigating the police departments that lead the investigation into Glen Assoun, who spent nearly 17 years in prison before being declared innocent.

Assoun 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.

Felix Cacchione, the director of Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT), confirmed to Global News on Friday that his team is conducting an investigation to determine if a “criminal offence” was committed by police as they investigated Assoun.

Nova Scotia justice minister Mark Furey had mentioned that SIRT was investigating police in relation to the Assoun case but provided little in the way of information on what they were investigating.

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“We will be investigating whether there was an obstruction of justice relating to the destruction of documents,” Cacchione said in an email to Global News.

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

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

Click to play video: 'Wrongful murder conviction report of Glen Assoun released'
Wrongful murder conviction report of Glen Assoun released

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.”

But SiRT is set to reexamine the issue.

Cacchione says he has asked the British Columbia Independent Investigation Office to assist in the investigation. They are awaiting formal approval for the request from B.C.

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The director had previously been hesitant to investigate the case as the destruction of documents predated the creation of SiRT.

However, on Friday Cacchione said the wrongful conviction of Assoun was a unique situation.

SIRT is responsible for investigating all serious incidents involving police in Nova Scotia and Cacchione said the case was referred to his team by Furey.

A report will be prepared once the investigation is complete and will then be posted on the SiRT website.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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