Households of victims of the Nova Scotia mass capturing are contemplating whether or not to proceed collaborating within the public inquiry into the tragedy as a result of key witnesses are being shielded from cross-examination.
The inquiry stated final week that Lisa Banfield, the partner of the killer, wouldn’t need to reply direct questions from legal professionals for households of the 22 victims as a result of she is a survivor of the assassin’s violence and has already been interviewed by inquiry investigators.
Michael Scott, whose legislation agency represents 14 of the households, says his shoppers are “extraordinarily upset” by the choice and are evaluating their future participation within the public inquiry – which continues to be scheduled to listen to testimony from senior RCMP officers.
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“Confidence within the mass casualty fee’s course of isn’t bolstered by one other departure from the fundamental ideas of procedural equity and pure justice,” Scott stated in an e-mail.
“The extent to which our shoppers will proceed collaborating on this course of is being thought-about. We’ll urge the commissioners to rethink their resolution.”
In a follow-up interview on Wednesday, Scott stated his shoppers have instructed him to not submit written questions for Banfield, to be posed by the general public inquiry’s lawyer. Scott stated doing so could be ineffective and would lend legitimacy to a flawed course of.
“My concern is we’re not going to listen to from Ms. Banfield. We’re going to listen to an oral model of a written assertion that was given behind closed doorways, and that’s not testimony,” he stated.
Legal professionals for some households boycotted proceedings in Might after the inquiry prevented cross-examination of two of the workers sergeants who oversaw the early response to the mass capturing.
A gunman driving a reproduction RCMP car killed 22 individuals, together with of a pregnant lady, in the course of the April 18-19, 2020 rampage that ended when he was shot lifeless by the RCMP north of Halifax.
The inquiry has stated its mandate requires it to be delicate to the wants of individuals most straight affected by the killings, and to be “trauma knowledgeable” in the way it offers with witnesses.
The inquiry additionally stated in an e-mail Wednesday that, “if some contributors select to look at as a substitute of submitting questions, that’s unlucky, however it’s their selection.”
“Via 5, multi-hour interviews with Ms. Banfield, it grew to become clear that fee counsel … taking the lead on questioning throughout public proceedings is the best method to collect Ms. Banfield’s finest proof.”
Nevertheless, Scott stated he and different legal professionals have to query Banfield in a respectful method whereas she is underneath oath, so as to reply households’ questions.
He stated Banfield might have essential insights into the evening of the incident, which she has advised police started together with her being attacked and handcuffed by the killer. She has indicated she escaped from one of many killer’s automobiles after he locked her in it, and spent the evening within the woods.
Scott additionally stated he has questions on Banfield’s potential data on topics equivalent to how RCMP investigated prior complaints concerning the killer’s possession of weapons and the way the gunman obtained weapons.
“There isn’t any different witness who has higher data of the perpetrator than Ms. Banfield, and no person has extra firsthand data from the interval main as much as the mass casualty or extra data … of the considerably unexplained reason for this occasion,” he stated.
Concerning the fears his questioning would add to Banfield’s trauma, Scott responded, “I’d hope by now we (legal professionals for the households) have demonstrated again and again our capability to look at witnesses professionally and with out criticism.”
Megan Stephens, a lawyer for Girls’s Shelters Canada, stated in an interview on Wednesday the choice to grant Banfield exemption from cross-examination wasn’t stunning, “given the sorts of experiences she’s been by means of and the trauma she’s skilled.”
“It’s onerous to say if we agree or disagree (with the fee’s resolution on Banfield). Some lodging make sense right here,” she stated.
Ed Ratushny, a number one Canadian scholar on public inquiries, stated in a current e-mail that the fee’s choices on cross-examination might impact whether or not it’s perceived to be neutral, doubtlessly leaving its findings open to judicial overview.
“The fee’s correct function is to not abolish direct testimony and cross-examination however to regulate it,” stated Ratushny, a professor emeritus on the College of Ottawa’s legislation faculty. He additionally stated: “Absolutely the (inquiry’s) phrases of reference didn’t intend to intervene with the first operate of reality discovering.”
Stephens stated the inquiry’s trauma-informed mandate might restrict the possibility of success of any judicial overview. She stated the larger concern is that if the general public loses belief within the course of, its suggestions won’t have the identical affect.
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