Ashley Smith coroner erred: panel
Ontario's deputy chief coroner has been told she was wrong to exclude controversial prison videos of forced injections at the Ashley Smith inquest underway in Toronto.
A panel of three judges with Ontario's Divisional Court ruled Thursday that Dr. Bonita Porter made a mistake by not reviewing and including the prison videos recorded at Joliette Institution in Quebec just three months before Smith died in her cell.
The videos depict medical staff threatening and forcibly injecting the troubled 19-year-old New Brunswick teen with anti-psychotic drugs against her will, which one psychiatrist described as illegal.
The incident happened just three months before she strangled herself at Grand Valley Institution near Kitchener, Ont. Smith had spiralled into despair, having been transferred between prisons 17 times in the final 11 months of her life.
The coroner originally refused to even look at the videos of the forced injections, ruling they were not relevant to the girl's state of mind at the time of her death.
But the court struck down that decision Thursday, stating that given the coroner's own expanded scope at the inquest it is difficult to understand why the coroner would conclude that the videos are irrelevant. Refusing the family access to these videos amounts to a denial of natural justice and runs the risk of having to repeat the inquest process, the court ruled.
Lawyers for Smith's family are now calling on the coroner to issue summons for all the videos recorded during the injections, and also during each of her 17 prison transfers, so they can be played for the inquest jury.