Bernard Richard, the province’s former ombudsman, has been hired by the City of Fredericton to investigate the city police force’s handling of the criminal libel charges against blogger Charles LeBlanc.

Richard’s mandate, which was approved by the city’s chief administrative officer, was announced at a council meeting on Monday night.


Bernard Richard has been asked to lead a review into the Fredericton Police's handling of a case involving blogger Charles LeBlanc. ((CBC))

The former Liberal cabinet minister and ombudsman will "review and investigate all aspects of conduct" of the city police force.

He will also have the power to make recommendations to the city.

The City of Fredericton said in a statement that it will not be commenting on Richard’s review until it has been handed in.

The investigation’s terms of reference do not outline a timeline for when the review should be finished.

However, the guidelines say Richard cannot express opinions regarding civil or criminal liability of any person or organization.


LeBlanc was never charged with criminal libel after the police seized his computer equipment. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

When he was the province's ombudsman and child and youth advocate, Richard was known for his thorough reports into contentious issues.

The review comes after Fredericton Police raided the home of LeBlanc, who writes a blog on politics and social justice issues, and said he would be facing criminal libel charges, under section 301 of the Criminal Code.

The blogger is often very critical of the police force.

LeBlanc was never charged with criminal libel.

Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais announced in May the provincial government was "of the opinion that section 301 is unconstitutional and that the matter against Mr. LeBlanc cannot be approved."

A few days later, Barry MacKnight, who was the chief of the Fredericton Police, said he welcomed a review of the LeBlanc file.


Barry MacKnight announced on June 20 that he would retire as the city's police chief. ((CBC))

On June 20, however, MacKnight decided to step down as the city’s police chief.

Fredericton council announced on Monday that deputy police chief Leanne Fitch will serve as the acting chief of police while the city looks for a full-time chief.

"We are pleased that deputy police chief Fitch is able to move into the acting Police Chief position," said Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside in a statement. 

"This provides continuity in the operation while the search for a new chief of police is carried out."