February 15, 2007
DRISKELL INQUIRY REPORT RELEASED– – –
Implementation of Recommendations To Begin Immediately: Chomiak
Attorney General Dave Chomiak today released the report of the inquiry into the 1991 wrongful conviction of James Driskell and committed to taking immediate action on its recommendations.
“Anyone accused of a crime expects and is entitled to a fair trial. The inquiry found that James Driskell did not receive one,” Chomiak said. “The province accepts the recommendations made by commissioner Patrick LeSage in their entirety.”
An implementation advisor, retired Court of Queen’s Bench justice Ruth Krindle, has been appointed as an outside resource for Manitoba Justice to assist with implementing the report’s recommendations.
“James Driskell remained in prison for many years before his release. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Mr. Driskell on behalf of the province and all those who contributed to this wrongful conviction,” Chomiak said.
Chomiak announced an immediate, voluntary good-faith payment to Driskell of $250,000 to recognize the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his case while compensation issues are resolved.
Driskell was charged with murder in October 1990 and convicted following a nine-day trial in June 1991. The conviction was overturned by the federal government in March 2005. A commission of inquiry into his case was announced by the province that month. LeSage, a former chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, was appointed commissioner for the inquiry. The commission began its work in December 2005 with hearing dates completed in November 2006. The commissioner’s report was submitted to the province on Jan. 30, 2007.
The province will take action including:
· Disclosure – Appointment of a disclosure manager to lead the Manitoba Justice Disclosure Unit. Current policies will be expanded to cover post-conviction disclosure between police, the Crown and defence counsel. Procedures for ensuring all information is shared about benefits requested, discussed or provided in connection with central witnesses will also be refined as recommended.
· Direct indictments – Revisions of policies on direct indictments as recommended, with acknowledgment of the needs of exceptional cases such as those involving child witnesses or major organized crime.
· Stays of proceedings – Revision of the policy on Crown stays to eliminate the past practice of using stays in wrongful conviction cases following Criminal Code section 696 reviews.
· Quarterly meetings – Adoption of the recommendation for quarterly meetings among representatives of the judiciary, the Crown, the defence bar, police and correctional authorities. These meetings will contribute to the work of other bodies that encourage information-sharing and problem-solving such as the Crown-Defence Liaison Committee, regular meetings between police and prosecutors and a Provincial Court Liaison committee.
· Other case reviews – Adoption of the recommendation on external reviews of similar cases prosecuted by George Dangerfield where a claim of a wrongful conviction is made. As recommended, the province will consider whether the mandate of Manitoba’s Hair Review Committee, which examined cases where microscopic hair comparison evidence was used in homicide, sexual assault and robbery cases, should be expanded to review other types of cases.
Chomiak said the province will make additional investments to support Crown attorneys in the Prosecutions Branch including additional prosecutors and targeted investments in additional support staff, resources and technology to assist with overall workload and to ensure demands for disclosure are met.
“Our government has increased prosecution resources by over 80 per cent,” said Chomiak. “We are again committing to providing additional resources to ensure the work of the Crown, especially in the area of disclosure, can be managed effectively.”
The report has been sent to the Law Society of Manitoba. LeSage does not recommend referring the conduct of Crown attorneys and police involved in the case for consideration of criminal charges or to the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA).
The report makes 21 recommendations. Of those, 10 apply to the province, three apply to both the provincial government and the Winnipeg Police Service, one to the RCMP, three solely to the Winnipeg Police Service, three to the federal government and other jurisdictions, and one to the judiciary. The minister called on the federal government, City of Winnipeg and police agencies to move quickly to review and implement the recommendations.
Chomiak encouraged the federal government to create an independent entity to review cases in which wrongful conviction is alleged. He said the province will be bringing forward recommendations to federal, provincial and territorial governments on undertaking a study on establishing factual innocence. The minister encouraged a countrywide review of cases where microscopic hair comparison evidence was used, similar to the work that has already been undertaken in Manitoba.
The report is being forwarded to Manitoba’s three courts: the provincial court, Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal; the Manitoba Bar Association and the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association; all police forces; and other provincial/territorial justice ministers and officials.
Copies of the LeSage report are available online at http://www.driskellinquiry.ca. A limited number of copies of the report are also available at 1110 - 405 Broadway.
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION ATTACHED