No political interference in investigations, say justice officials and top cop
Tories raise questions about actions of cabinet ministers
Top provincial justice officials and the chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary are speaking out to deny allegations that there has been government interference in police investigations.
Their comments came hours after news broke that an RNC officer recently went to the RCMP asking for an investigation into Andrew Parsons.
Parsons was justice minister until he was shuffled to the energy portfolio this summer, as part of a government-wide reorganization after the new premier took office. Parsons remains attorney general.
Just two days ago, separate questions were raised in the legislature about the actions of another cabinet minister, Bernard Davis, and a call he made to RNC Chief Joe Boland.
Boland told reporters Wednesday morning that policing and politics don't mix.
"Let me be very clear: there is no interference, there's no influence, when it comes to criminal investigations by the RNC," Boland said.
"Never has been with minister Parsons, former premier Ball, or [minister] Bernard Davis or any other government official. The separation from the RNC and government when it comes to criminal investigations is that they have no input. There's no collaboration with them whatsoever."
In the legislature on Monday, the Opposition Tories grilled Tourism Minister Bernard Davis over a call he made to Boland earlier this year.
Unsealed search warrant documents indicated the call was about the status of the investigation into Davis's colleague, Sherry Gambin-Walsh, over a leak of cabinet secrets.
Davis said that wasn't the case. He told the House he routinely spoke with Boland about various policing-related issues, and said he didn't know an investigation was underway until news broke in early April that Gambin-Walsh's cellphones had been seized by the RCMP.
- CBC INVESTIGATES | How an investigation into a cabinet minister started, after turmoil over police promotions
On Wednesday, Boland backed up Davis, saying he had called the minister days earlier to ask about cabinet processes, and Davis then called Boland to ask whether there was anything to the leak.
"I just told him it was inappropriate for me to speak about anything in relation to the leak," Boland said.
According to the search warrant documents, the Mounties were called in to investigate the next day.
Joe Smyth complaint against Parsons
Meanwhile, VOCM reported earlier Wednesday morning on a leaked document that outlined a complaint RNC Const. Joe Smyth sent to the RCMP about Parsons.
Smyth was eventually acquitted of obstruction of justice, in relation to his handling of a traffic stop. In the leaked letter, Smyth asked the Mounties to look into whether Parsons got involved in his case earlier, when he was charged and initially convicted.
Parsons told reporters Wednesday that is "ridiculous" and "beyond belief."
Parsons noted that the complaint had been alluded to in the House earlier this week, and said he believes it has become public for partisan advantage.
"This is people using the justice system for political purposes, and that's pretty frustrating, pretty low, actually," Parsons said.
The province's director of public prosecutions also said there was no political interference in the decision to prosecute Smyth.
"Any allegation of political interference with the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is a serious accusation and an affront to the integrity of Public Prosecutions and the Crown attorneys that dutifully serve the public," Lloyd Strickland said in a statement.
"Public Prosecutions has strictly maintained independence from any political considerations. That independence has absolutely and consistently been respected by others in government."
But PC Opposition leader Ches Crosbie said it's outrageous that the attorney general and the chief of the RNC are even commenting on — and possibly influencing the outcome of — a complaint to the Mounties.
"These are the top law enforcement officials in the province and they are weighing in on the merits of a complaint lodged with the RCMP that involves one of them, the attorney general," Crosbie said.
"Where is the premier on this? How can this possibly be proper? And how are we going to get to the bottom of the facts?"
In an emailed statement, the premier's office indicated that Boland's comments and the statement from the director of public prosecutions speak for themselves.
The RCMP confirmed it has received a complaint from Smyth about Parsons.
The Mounties say they are assessing the complaint, but haven't yet decided if it will be investigated.
With files from Mark Quinn