Nova Scotia

Police review ordered in stroke death

The Nova Scotia government has ordered a police review in the case of a jailed woman who suffered a stroke and later died in hospital.

Family of Victoria Paul wanted public inquiry

Nova Scotia's police complaints commissioner will review how Truro police handled a woman who suffered a fatal stroke while in their custody.

Victoria Paul, 44, from Indian Brook, died a few days after spending a night in a jail cell at the Truro police station in 2009.

Justice Minister Ross Landry said the investigation under the Police Act will determine whether police followed the appropriate guidelines and standards.

"I'm not here to look for blame or find fault," Ross said Thursday.

"I have the utmost confidence in police officers and the process overall. But remember we're dealing with the human element here. In these types of situations it's best to have reflection and re-evaluation."

Paul's family and the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association were demanding a more extensive public inquiry.

Cheryl Maloney, president of the group, said they had "no choice" but to accept the review.

Landry said the review will also address the investigation by Halifax Regional Police, which cleared Truro police of any wrongdoing.

"I had a few questions myself," Landry said. "Should we have known that something was seriously medically wrong? Had we acted sooner on this matter would we have a different outcome?"

Rolling on floor

Some answers are contained in an executive summary of the report by Halifax police.

Paul was taken to the lockup for public intoxication on the night of Aug. 28, 2009. She fell asleep around 3 a.m. and sat up briefly at 5:30 a.m. An hour later she fell off a bench and rolled on the floor in discomfort.

At 6:45 a.m. Paul was on the floor crying and unable to speak. At 8:30 a.m., the duty sergeant found her face down in a pool of urine. When the sergeant shouted at her, Paul lifted her head but did not speak.

Police tried to rouse Paul many times over the next six hours. But she only groaned, grunted or coughed.

The sergeant authorized a call to Emergency Health Services at noon. Paramedics arrived at 1:15 p.m. and took Paul to Colchester Regional Hospital.

Doctors determined that Paul had suffered a massive stroke. Her family decided to take her off life support on Sept. 3, 2009, and Paul died two days later.

6 months for review

Nadine Cooper Mont, commissioner of the Nova Scotia Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, will conduct the review. She will prepare a report and make recommendations to the justice minister.

Landry said he will also appoint someone with knowledge of the Mi'kmaq community and culture to act as an observer.

Mont's review is expected to take about six months.

With files from The Canadian Press