The hit man, the sexual assaulter, the courts and justice

It’s been an unsatisfying week for the be-seen aspect of that justice-being-done-and-being-seen-to-be-done shibboleth. The more we learned the more clear it is we still don’t know all we need to know about two high-profile court cases to satisfy ourselves justice has been served.

Let’s start with the report of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

In January, the Supreme Court stayed charges Nicole Doucet tried to hire a hitman to kill her husband, Michael Ryan, in part because of the “disquieting fact that… it seems that the authorities were much quicker to intervene to protect Mr. Ryan than they had been to respond to [Ms. Doucet’s] request for help in dealing with his reign of terror over her.”

But the independent commission — after examining the 25 RCMP files involving one or both Ryan and Doucet, reviewing a previous internal report and interviewing key RCMP officers as well as both Ryan and Doucet — concluded “the RCMP acted reasonably in each of its dealings with Ms. Doucet and her family, and did not fail to protect her.”

The 41-page report is specific and detailed; its conclusion raises a troubling question. Since neither Ryan nor the RCMP were called to testify about Doucet’s allegations of spousal abuse and police failure to act, how could so many courts so mindlessly accept those allegations as proven fact?

The report is silent on that question. It’s beyond its mandate, which is exactly the reason we need a full public inquiry into this case.

Another botched case, another report. This one by Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service into of the Fenwick MacIntosh case. In April, the Supreme Court refused to consider a lower court’s dismissal of sexual assault charges against MacIntosh because of a 15-year delay between allegations and trial.

The prosecution service owned up to its failures and noted changes it’s made to prevent such unconscionable delays in the future.

But Ottawa so far has failed to explain why it renewed MacIntosh’s passport twice after he’d been charged.

Another internal inquiry won’t cut it.

We need a broader, independent inquiry into what went wrong and why.

Justice won’t be seen to be done until then.

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