Nova Scotia

Stroke victim's family demands inquiry

The family of Victoria Paul says only a public inquiry will determine whether she could have survived a stroke in a Truro police cell in 2009.

The family of Victoria Paul says only a public inquiry will determine whether she could have survived a stroke in a Truro police cell.

The 44-year-old Indian Brook woman died in hospital in 2009 after spending several hours in police custody.

Paul's family wants to know whether she received the proper care while she was in a jail cell. Relatives wonder if she would be alive today if she had received medical attention sooner.

The Nova Scotia Native Women's Association is backing the family's demand for an independent inquiry.

"Dying, taking a stroke ... those circumstances for any Nova Scotian would warrant some sort of investigation and some sort of co-operation from police and government," said Cheryl Maloney, president of the association.

Some answers are contained in an  executive summary of a report by Halifax Regional Police.

Paul was taken to the lockup for public intoxication on the night of Aug. 28, 2009. She fell asleep around 3 a.m. She sat up briefly at 5:30 a.m., but 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 Paul face down in a pool of urine. When the sergeant shouted at her, Paul lifted her head but did not speak.

Over the next six hours, police tried to rouse Paul many times, but she only groaned, grunted or coughed.

The sergeant authorized a call to Emergency Health Services at noon, and paramedics arrived at 1:15 p.m. Paul was taken 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.

Maloney said she has heard the government is leaning towards a review under the Police Act, but she doesn't believe that would go far enough.

"There's not much faith in the police. Government is talking to us. But we're looking at an independent review of government and police, and a public inquiry would give us that," she said.

Maloney said the association has sent a letter to Premier Darrell Dexter and Justice Minister Ross Landry.

Truro police regulations say intoxicated prisoners must be roused every 30 minutes. An unconscious prisoner that cannot be woken up is supposed to be taken straight to hospital.

The Truro Police Service called for a review of its operations. That review by Halifax Regional Police concluded there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Truro officers.

Last December, the Truro Police Service said it would act on a recommendation for enhanced training for officers assessing intoxicated people.