Hamilton

Long-awaited jail deaths inquest delayed yet again

A sweeping inquest into multiple overdose deaths at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre has been delayed yet again.

Inquest into overdoses at Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre pushed back to April of 2018

An inquest into eight overdose deaths at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre will now take place in April of 2018. (Adam Carter/CBC)

A sweeping inquest into multiple overdose deaths at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre has been delayed yet again.

The inquest, which was originally called back in 2015, was repeatedly pushed back until it was officially set earlier this year for January of 2018.

But in a news release sent Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services announced that the inquest had been pushed back several months.

"The inquest is expected to last six weeks and to hear from approximately 100 witnesses," the news release reads. "The inquest will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, April 9, 2018."

Ministry spokesperson Cheryl Maher told CBC News that the new start date was set because the inquest brief — the documents that will guide the proceedings — were so extensive that people who have asked for standing at the inquest needed more time to review them.

"It was pushed back a bit to give people an opportunity to prepare," Maher said.

It's the latest twist in a long saga surrounding the inquest, which is supposed to examine the deaths of eight men who died in custody in the jail from 2012 to 2016.

Drug toxicity was a factor in all of the deaths. Since the inquest was first called in 2015, two more inmates died, while ambulances have been back and forth to the jail several times because of overdoses.

Inquests are called by a coroner after a death to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future. A jury can recommend procedures for governing bodies to adhere to, though they're under no obligation to do so.

Former regional coroner Dr. Jack Stanborough, who was previously set to preside over the inquest, has criticized the way the coroner's office has handled the file.

Standborough previously said he was "paid to go away" and dismissed for criticizing the ministry too harshly during other inquests.

"My inquest was totally ready to go," Stanborough said. "The fact that the coroner's office dragged its ass for two more years and two more people died is disgusting."

April Tykoliz, whose brother Marty died of an overdose in the jail in 2014, has similarly criticized the length of time the inquest has taken to get off the ground.

"The wait has been atrocious," Tykoliz said in a previous interview. "There's been no closure. Nothing has been fixed."

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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