The jury at the inquest into the murder-suicide of 4-year-old Nash Campbell and his mother Patricia Hennessey returned Monday afternoon with 15 recommendations for changes to the way the province handles high-risk child custody cases.
The jury was acting on suggestions made by numerous witnesses testifying at the inquest, many of whom tried to help Nash and his parents, Hennessey and Marc Campbell.
Nash Campbell and Hennessey died in a vehicle fire near Tignish on June 21, 2013. Their deaths were ruled a murder-suicide.
Hennessey had lost custody of her son to his father the day before.
The jury came back with the following recommendations:
- professional education on filicide (parents killing their own children)
- child protection policy and protocol development on high-risk cases
- training Child and Protection Services to engage fathers and mothers
- mandatory multidisciplinary training on domestic violence and child abuse
- information sharing between family and criminal courts
- judicial education on domestic violence and child abuse
- ensuring availability of child custody assessments in high-risk family court cases
- developing supervised access services
- workplace initiatives to support employees dealing with domestic violence and/or mental health concerns
- cool-down period after custody transferred, before visitations resume
- enforcement of custody agreements with possible criminal charges if not followed
- mandatory attendance at violence prevention programs, parenting programs — court-ordered and visitation rights revoked if not attended in high-risk cases
- safety circle set up for the family
- peace plan put in place with all service workers involved and both parents have to attend
- having a child advocate in place.
The recommendations will now go to the province's chief coroner who will forward them to the attorney general. The province will then review the recommendations and decide which ones to implement.
The recommendations aren't binding.
Coroner Dr. Roy Montgomery, who presided over the inquest, thanked the jury, telling them, "It was a lot of work. You did a great job."
Crown David O'Brien said, in all his years, he's never seen a jury "so engaged" in a case.
Mary Lynn Kane, the lawyer for Child and Family Services told jurors that the province will provide help them deal with the stress of hearing the details of the case, if necessary.
Earlier in the day, family violence expert Peter Jaffe testified, saying homicides in these cases are often preventable and that family members and others see a child at risk, but don't know what to do.
He also said Nash's parents were in an "all-out war" and "shouldn't have been within a mile of each other."
Jaffe said after four years of conflict, and with tensions escalating, someone should have stepped up to get the families together to try to work out a solution.