Canada

Final report into death of Frank Paul released

The final report into the death of Frank Joseph Paul has been released by B.C. Attorney General Barry Penner on Wednesday morning.
The commission that looked into Paul's death said Crown prosecutors worked too closely with police, the CBC's Alan Waterman reports 2:14

The final report into the death of Frank Joseph Paul concludes there's no evidence of a conflict of interest in the case.

Frank Paul, a 48-year-old Mi'kmaq, died of exposure and hypothermia in a Vancouver alley on Dec. 6, 1998, after he was dumped there by police even though he was severely intoxicated and wet.

Police video footage captured Frank Paul being dragged through the Vancouver lockup the night he died. ((CBC))

The final report into the death by Commissioner William H. Davies, QC, was released by B.C. Attorney General Barry Penner on Wednesday morning.

In the report Davis says he's satisfied the prosecutors were not subjected to improper pressures from the Vancouver Police Department, nor was there any evidence of improper political pressure or influence.

Crown counsel had been criticized because no officers were charged in the death of Frank Paul, despite strong criticism of their handling of the incident.

Still Davies did make nine recommendations in the report including one that would reduce the possibility of a conflict of interest when charges are being considered against police.

He says when there is the possibility of conflict of interest, the charge assessment should be assigned to someone outside the Criminal Justice Branch, either a lawyer in private practice or a lawyer or prosecutor in another province.

Other recommendations in the report deal with how the families of victims and the public are notified when charges are laid.

Court battle over prosecutors' testimony

Davies released an interim report in March 2009 that was harshly critical of the Vancouver police's treatment of Paul.

But the inquiry ended without hearing from the three former Crown lawyers after the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch argued they should not be compelled to explain their decision not to lay charges.

Davies said he would reconvene the inquiry if the courts ruled the three should testify at the inquiry about their decision not to charge any of the officers.

In April 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal of a B.C. Court of Appeal decision that said the former Crowns should appear at the inquiry, and the inquiry resumed last November.

During the hearings lawyers representing Paul's family argued officers dealing with Paul that night should have been charged.

The former director of legal services for the Criminal Justice Branch, Gregory Fitch testified at the inquiry that the officers failed in their duty to exercise reasonable care with Paul, and that charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life against the officers were considered.

But he said his decision to not lay charges was based on his finding that there wasn't a substantial likelihood the officers would be convicted.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Fitch admitted that the actions of both officers met the criteria for charges. In fact, Fitch testified at the inquiry that the officers failed in their duty to exercise reasonable care with Paul, and that charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life against the officers were considered, but he concluded there was not a substantial likelihood of conviction.
    Jun 23, 2011 10:40 AM ET