The civilian-led police watchdog in B.C. will begin investigating allegations that the RCMP in Nova Scotia inappropriately destroyed evidence that was used in the 1999 wrongful murder conviction of Glen Assoun.
Assoun spent nearly 17 years in prison for the 1995 death of Brenda Way. He was granted bail in 2014 and lived under strict conditions, before a 2019 Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling reversed the conviction.
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.
The destruction of evidence occurred prior to Assoun’s 2006 appeal hearing, which he lost.
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.”
In September 2020, then-minister of justice and attorney general Mark Furey asked the Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) in Nova Scotia to investigate whether there was criminal misconduct by the police during the period before Assoun’s appeal.
“In the interest of transparency, Director Cacchione asked The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC to conduct the investigation into this historical matter,” said SiRT in a news release Thursday.
“The IIO is under the leadership of Ronald J. MacDonald, former director of the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team.”
IIO investigators will begin their work “in the near future” and will come to Nova Scotia “as necessary.” Their investigation will also look into whether any member of the Halifax Regional Police committed an offence related to the conviction.
“The IIO utilizes a “start from zero” approach, drawing no conclusions regarding the outcome of an investigation while working to gather all available evidence,” the release notes.
“The Chief Civilian Director will then review the evidence and, applying relevant legal principles, will determine whether reasonable grounds exist to believe that an officer may have committed an offence.”
The IIO is currently under the leadership of Ronald MacDonald, the former director of SiRT.
— With a file from The Canadian Press