Serena Perry inquest postponed, chief coroner announces
Court challenge has delayed March 17 inquest
A coroner's inquest into the death of Serena Perry while a psychiatric patient at the Saint John Regional Hospital two years ago has been postponed, Chief Coroner Gregory Forestell announced on Friday.
"Due to a court challenge related to procedures to be followed at coroner's inquests, it will not be possible to begin the inquest as scheduled on March 17," Forestell said in a statement.
Last week, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Hugh McLellan overturned a decision by Forestell, ruling lawyers for the hospital and two doctors should have standing at the inquest and be able to call and question witnesses.
Lawyers for the coroner's office are expected to make further submissions on the precedent-setting decision at a court hearing on Monday.
Perry, 22, died while she was a patient under the care of the psychiatric unit. Her body was found in the hospital's amphitheatre on Feb. 14, 2012, after she'd gone there with a fellow psychiatric patient, a teenaged male.
The inquest will examine how the Saint John hospital and its staff handled things the night Perry died.
Presiding coroner John Evans and a jury will publicly hear evidence from subpoenaed witnesses to determine the facts surrounding Perry's death.
The jury will also have an opportunity to make recommendations to prevent deaths under similar circumstances.
Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid had requested a coroner's inquest be held after he announced in June 2013 that no charges would be laid in the case, which was being treated as a homicide.
Although police had a suspect — a male patient who was also under the care of the psychiatric unit — a forensic examination could not determine Perry's cause of death, they said.
The inquest, to be held at the Saint John Law Courts, is expected to last two weeks.
Perry's family has filed a lawsuit against the hospital, the psychiatrist responsible for her care, and the fellow psychiatric patient they accuse of "intentionally or negligently" asphyxiating her.