Police role in Rehtaeh Parsons case to be reviewed
Out-of-province reviewer to determine if investigation timing was appropriate
A former Ontario deputy attorney general will scrutinize the Nova Scotia police and public prosecution's investigation into the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Cole Harbour girl who died after she was bullied online.
Murray Segal will review the timing of their actions and examine whether police and the prosecution service followed procedural policy.
Justice Minister Ross Landry said the $200,000 review will take six months.
According to Rehtaeh’s family, four boys sexually assaulted her when she was 15. The teen was then said to have been mocked by classmates, and endured relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at school and on social media.
On April 7, Rehtaeh, then 17, was taken off life-support after attempting to take her own life a few days earlier.
No charges were laid after the initial investigation. The case was reopened earlier this year, however, and last week, two 18-year-old boys were charged with child pornography offences. They are expected to appear in court later this week.
One of the many questions in the Rehtaeh case is why no charges were laid until now.
Police said they had never interviewed any of the four accused before Thursday. They said one of the boys came to the station once, but didn’t offer any information.
"You can’t do a review of this nature without looking at what parameters … both the police and the public prosecutors work under," said Landry.
"Our goal is to make sure no stone goes unturned to improve, not defend the status quo, but how to improve the way we look at these issues."
Halifax police insist there has been a lot of public misinformation about the Rehtaeh case. They say they plan to co-operate fully.
"A big part of the story at the time was the failure of the police to lay charges and prosecute — and stories that were circulating widely in the media and otherwise that the investigation might not have been properly carried out," said internet privacy lawyer David Fraser.
He said the reach of investigation should be wider and include the mental health care given to Rehtaeh by the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
New cyberbullying laws
Landry said the aim of the review is to change things for future cyberbullying cases in Nova Scotia and across Canada.
‘The technology is changing so quickly, and our ability to adapt to it is quite challenging," he said. "We’re asking the federal government to put legislation forward on the redistribution of imaging.
The province enacted anti-cyberbullying legislation the day before the child porn charge"s were laid last week. The new legislation gives victims the ability to sue alleged cyberbullies, or their parents if those accused are minors.
"One of the recommendations, which I understand may be happening soon, is education for parents so they can better understand social media technology and their role as reasonable supervising parents," said Wayne MacKay, who chaired an anti-cyberbullying task force in Nova Scotia.
The two accused will be in youth court on Aug. 15. They cannot be identified, because they were minors at the time of the alleged offences