Nova Scotia

Hearing into police handling of young man's death in Cape Breton gets underway

A hearing got underway in Sydney, N.S., Monday to examine how police handled an investigation into a young man's death.

Joneil Hanna died in June 2018 when he was hit by a car leaving a graduation party

Joneil Hanna is shown with his baby daughter. (Gofundme)

A hearing got underway in Sydney, N.S., Monday to examine how police handled an investigation into a young man's death.

Joneil Hanna died in June 2018 when he was struck and killed on a rural highway outside Sydney.

The 21-year-old driver of the car was charged with obstruction of justice, but those charges were later withdrawn.

The Nova Scotia Police Review board is hearing a complaint from Hanna's father, John Parr, that police failed to properly investigate his son's death.

On the first day, the board heard from three witnesses, all officers with Cape Breton Regional Police. 

Officers spoke about their interactions with Hayden Laffin, the driver of the vehicle that struck Hanna after a graduation party.

They also described the area where the party occurred. They said several hundred teenagers had gathered there. 

Const. Steve Sibley, the first witness, repeatedly stated that Laffin was polite and co-operative and was showing no signs of impairment. 

"I could tell he had his wits about him," Sibley told the hearing panel.

Hanna's father believes police should have given Laffin a breathalyzer test.

Sibley was asked why Laffin was allowed to leave the scene of the collision. Sibley said he had no grounds to keep him.

According to Sibley, he also did not believe that Laffin was at the party but was just picking up friends to drive home.

Const. Paul Ratchford, the second witness, described his interactions with Laffin. Ratchford waved Laffin through a checkpoint at the party.

"He looked pretty sober to me," Ratchford said.

Shortly after Laffin left the scene, Hanna was struck on Route 223.

Ratchford was asked what he had observed at the grad party and noted that he did not see anyone drinking alcohol.

After the collision, Ratchford was one of the officers on the scene who observed damage to the vehicle that Laffin was driving.

In July, charges were dropped against Laffin connected to Hanna's death.

Proceedings are expected to last two weeks.

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