Ottawa

Watchdog to probe complaint against Ottawa police in hit-and-run death

A grieving father has learned that his complaints about how police dealt with a collision on Leitrim Road last June that killed his son will be investigated by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

Independent oversight agency will investigate, but not until after accused's criminal trial

Kerry Nevin, left, says he will keep fighting for justice in his son Andy Nevin's death. Andy Nevin was a father of two boys who was killed after a vehicle struck him while he was cycling on Leitrim Road in June 2015. (Submitted photo)

A grieving father has learned that his complaints about how police dealt with the collision on Leitrim Road last June that killed his son will be investigated by an Ontario police review agency.

It's been eight and a half months since Andy Nevin, a 39-year-old Ottawa father of two boys, was killed riding his bike early on a Sunday morning.

"It destroyed our family. He was my oldest son, I was a single parent," said his father, Kerry Nevin. 

Nevin said he went back to work a few months later, only to have to leave again as he grew more frustrated and anxious that more serious charges weren't being laid in his son's death.

The criminal trial Deinsberg St-Hilaire, 39, begins in December. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

For several days after the deadly collision last summer, Ottawa police searched for a white truck and urged the driver to come forward.

They had 39-year-old Deinsberg St-Hilaire under surveillance for part of that time, but when he was charged, it was for failing to stop his vehicle or identify himself after the crash.

The more serious charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death came in December, nearly five months later.

Even after that charge was laid, the Nevin family was furious that St-Hilaire was released on bail and allowed to drive a vehicle they believe is the one that killed Andy Nevin.

OIPRD to investigate Ottawa detective constable

Kerry Nevin filed a detailed complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, or OIPRD, in January.

"My chief concerns are they failed to investigate this properly," said Nevin, who contends police should have questioned the people St-Hilaire was in contact with after the collision.

His fear is that St-Hilaire's charges could be thrown out.

Last week, Nevin received a letter back from the OIPRD saying that the agency will itself investigate the issues he raised about one detective constable's work, but not until after St-Hilaire's criminal trial, which is scheduled to begin in December.

"These things needed to happen before the trial because these things affect the trial," said Nevin.

Trial is the 'ultimate crucible of truth'

The OIPRD, an independent civilian agency that oversees all complaints about police in the province, does not comment on individual complaints.

Andy Nevin, a father of two, soccer dad, and landscaper, was killed after a vehicle struck him on Leitrim Road in June 2015 (Submitted photo)
But in an email to CBC News, it explained in general terms that if a criminal investigation or case is before the courts, the police complaint is typically dealt with afterward so as not to compromise the criminal case.

Michael Spratt, a criminal defence counsel who is not connected with the case, agrees that's the way the system should work.

"The criminal trial is sort of the ultimate crucible of truth and that is the venue where evidence should be tested," said Spratt.

Spratt added it's hard to see what could come out of an investigation into police misconduct that wouldn't already come out as evidence in court during the criminal trial, but should there be something novel, there can be appeals and reviews.

The professional standards section of the Ottawa Police Service, meanwhile, had not yet received notice of a complaint from the OIPRD.

The case is taking a toll on Kerry Nevin, but he's determined to continue scrutinizing every element.

"I made a vow to my son at the viewing at the funeral home that I would get truth and justice for him in this situation," he said.