Too many prisoners were in a prison cell when Thomas Barrett was violently attacked, says a report released by Nova Scotia's Department of Justice Tuesday.

Bill Smith, executive director of Correctional Services, said only one or two inmates are assigned to any cell, and no other inmates are allowed in the cell. 

But five offenders are accused of attacking Barrett in a cell on June 21.

Smith said the layout of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside played a role. About 20 cells face into a central day room and up to 20 inmates could be in the common area. 

'Unfortunately the facility houses a population of people who have involvement with the law; some of them are violent.'- Bill Smith, Correctional Services

"The incident took place in one of the cells," Smith said Wednesday. "There’s an ongoing police investigation and a lot of those details involved in that are still before the court."

Staff Sgt. Barb Saunders of Halifax Regional Police said in June that the victim entered a jail cell and was attacked by inmates already inside.

Smith said the prison had gone over procedures with staff in light of the attack.

"Unfortunately the facility houses a population of people who have involvement with the law; some of them are violent," he said.

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Thomas Ted Barrett has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Laura Jessome and Brett Elizabeth MacKinnon, who was last seen alive in 2006. (CBC)

The review found five offenders armed with "make-shift weapons" attacked at about 4:30 p.m.

Staff locked down the prison and the victim was taken to hospital. He returned to prison June 25.

The report found:

  • One standard operating procedure, regarding the number of offenders permitted in a cell, was not followed. Only those offenders assigned to the cell are permitted to be in it at any given time.
  • Staff responded quickly and appropriately to the medical emergency.
  • Policy and procedures were followed.

The five prisoners face various charges, including attempted murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. The men will answer the charges in court on September 16.