New Brunswick

Feds take Ashley Smith 'death video' ruling to court

The coroner presiding over an inquest into the death of a troubled teenager in a prison cell says the public can see surveillance video of her, but federal prison authorities plan to fight that decision in court.

Coroner says prison video of teen's death should be public at inquest

Federal prison authorities are going to court to try to stop release of jailhouse video of a teen who died in her cell.

Their announcement came minutes after the coroner refused to put a publication ban on the videos of Ashley Smith.

The decision by Correctional Service Canada threatens to delay the long-delayed inquest still further.

Prison authorities wanted the videos of a dying Smith held from public view.

But presiding coroner, Dr. John Carlisle, said the public's right to know was too important to ignore.

A lawyer for Correctional Service Canada had argued the tapes had not been entered as evidence.

Allowing the public to see the materials ahead of time, he said, could undermine the process.

Lawyers for Smith's family and media outlets called that position absurd.

They argued the inquest had begun even though no jury has been seated, and the public has a right to know what materials are in play.

Smith, 19, choked herself to death in her cell in Kitchener, Ont., five years ago after repeated bouts of self-harm.

Speculation about possible harm was not enough to order the secrecy, Carlisle ruled.

"There will be no sealing order," he said.

Joel Robichaud, lawyer for Correctional Service Canada, immediately asked for a brief adjournment.

"My instructions are to seek a judicial review of your decision," Robichaud told Carlisle afterward.

Julian Falconer, who speaks for Smith's family, urged the coroner to reject the adjournment motion as "colossally" without merit.

"A losing party will always have an interest in stopping things," said Falconer, who accused the government of holding the proceedings "hostage" at taxpayers' expense.

Most other lawyers lined up to urge that the hearing proceed,with one saying the process had already been "agonizingly slow."

Carlisle reserved his decision.