Ashley Smith inquest set for Jan. 14

An inquest into the death of teenaged inmate Ashley Smith will begin on Jan. 14, Ontario's deputy chief coroner for inquests announced on Monday.

Expected to last at least 6 months

An inquest into the death of teenaged inmate Ashley Smith will begin on Jan. 14, Ontario's deputy chief coroner for inquests announced on Monday.

The inquest is expected to last at least six months and will hear from more than 50 witnesses, Dr. Bert Lauwers stated in a release.

Smith, 19, of Moncton, died on Oct. 19, 2007, while being held at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont.

She choked to death while prison guards — who were told not to intervene — watched from outside her cell.

An inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act.

It will examine the events surrounding Smith's death and the jury may make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Dr. John Carlisle, who will preside as inquest coroner, rejected a motion by three doctors last month to narrow the scope of the inquest.

Carlisle said he wants the inquest to have a broad focus, including a look into how Smith was treated after repeated episodes of self-harm.

Recently released videos show some of the treatment Smith received in the months before her death. The videos show Smith being flown between facilities, wearing two mesh hoods to prevent her from spitting and with her hands duct-taped. Another video shows Smith tied to a gurney in a Quebec prison after she tried to cut herself in her cell.

Smith was first charged with a criminal offence in March 2002 when she was 14 years old. Incarcerated at 15, her additional infractions while in youth custody racked up enough extra time behind bars that she eventually graduated to the federal adult prison system.

During the year she spent in federal custody, Smith was transferred 17 times between nine institutions in five provinces.

Jocelyn Speyer and Marg Creal will act as counsel to the coroner.

The inquest will begin on Jan. 14 at 9 a.m. at the Coroners Courts on Grosvenor Street in Toronto.