Shortly after noon on September 5, 2013, two members of the HRP responded to a complaint of an intoxicated male near Sylvia Avenue in Halifax. They arrested a 52-year-old man for public intoxication. He was taken to HRP cells where he was to be held until sober and then released. The male was well known to police for being intoxicated. At approximately 6 p.m., the man was found by a guard to be breathing but unresponsive. EHS was contacted and transported the man to hospital. He was diagnosed with a serious brain bleed and died on September 8.
The investigation sought and obtained three expert medical opinions regarding cause of death and the impact the failure to wake the sleeping male may have had on the male’s chance of recovery from his injury. The investigation also obtained a comprehensive opinion from the Public Prosecution Service. That process accounted for the time required for the completion of this investigation.
The guard is required at law to ensure a prisoner receives necessary medical treatment. In this case, the guard’s failure to conduct checks that match policy and may have alerted him to the male’s condition are of significant concern. However, to be a criminal act, the actions of the guard must constitute a marked departure from the standard of care expected of a reasonably prudent jail guard in the circumstances. In this case the guard was not aware of any medical issues, and made a decision to allow the male to sleep. In these circumstances it was found his actions do not constitute a criminal act.
SIRT is responsible for investigating all serious incidents involving police in Nova Scotia. Investigations are under the direction and control of independent civilian director Ron MacDonald, who is solely responsible for decisions respecting the laying of any charge.