Nova Scotia

Privacy chief criticizes partial suppression of N.S. jail death report

Nova Scotia's freedom-of-information law is becoming "an exercise in frustration," the privacy commissioner said after the government partially rejected her recommendations on a report on Clayton Cromwell's death.

Efforts to see internal report about death of Clayton Cromwell extend back to December 2014

Catherine Tully is Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's freedom-of-information law is becoming "an exercise in frustration," the privacy commissioner said after the government partially rejected her recommendations on a report on a man's jailhouse death.

Commissioner Catherine Tully told the Justice Department it should provide The Canadian Press with most of an internal report into how 23-year-old Clayton Cromwell died from a methadone overdose at the Burnside jail in April 2014, other than names of prisoners and guards.

The efforts to see the internal report extend back to December 2014.

Tully said the province failed to provide evidence to back its claims that releasing the report would harm law enforcement and the security of the Dartmouth, N.S., facility, endanger the life of officers, or be "detrimental" to the custody of inmates.

Clayton Cromwell, 23, died from a methadone overdose in April 2014, even though he wasn't prescribed the drug. (The Canadian Press)

The commissioner said the province has told her it is now willing to release some of the report, but will continue to apply exemptions, and Tully said it's still unclear how much of the document will be provided.

She said the case illustrates how the freedom of information act isn't working well because the province isn't providing evidence to back its arguments, then is rejecting her findings after she recommends release due to the lack of evidence.

Tully said that forces some applicants to abandon their effort because of the heavy expense of a court appeal, and leaves many applicants wondering what the point of her review process was.

Justice Minister Mark Furey said the partial refusal is about "striking a balance" between the public's access to information and protecting what he refers to as the "safe functionality" of the institution.

Read more stories from CBC Nova Scotia.