REGINA — The Saskatchewan government spent $11.2 million on a public inquiry into the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard, who spent 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The final report was released in 2008. Here are Justice Edward MacCallum’s 13 recommendations and the provincial government’s response so far:
— Creation of a dedicated medical examiner’s facility where autopsies would be performed by qualified forensic pathologists in the service of the province. Betty Ann Pottruff with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice says the province complied in a “slightly different way” by creating two forensic pathologist positions.
— Mandatory sharing of investigation reports between all police forces assisting in major cases. Pottruff says that’s already part of the process.
— Assurance that municipal police forces who ask for assistance from the RCMP have in place a written agreement describing the terms, conditions and responsibilities of inter-agency relationships. Pottruff says that’s already covered by existing policy.
— Assurance that every statement taken by police from a young person in a major case, whether as a witness or a suspect, is recorded in both audio and video. Pottruff says recording statements is a best practice and police attempt to do so where they can.
— Amendment of the Criminal Code to permit academic inquiry into jury deliberations with a view to gathering evidence of the extent to which jurors accept and apply instructions on the admissibility of evidence, particularly relating to inconsistent out-of-court statements. This is not yet allowed.
— Referral to the public prosecutions director every complaint to police calling into question the safety of a conviction. The policy change has been made.
— No unsolicited contact by prosecutors with the National Parole Board. This recommendation has been completed.
— Retention for a minimum of 10 years of exhibits capable of yielding forensics samples in homicide cases. Notification to convicted persons of impending destruction of exhibits, allowing applications for extensions. Pottruff says that is under development and review by a provincial-territorial working group.
— Scanning and electronic storage of documentary exhibits in all indictable offence cases, unless a court orders otherwise. Pottruff says most exhibits are being kept, but a policy is still in the works across jurisdictions.
— Retention for a year and in their original form of all prosecution and police files, including police notebooks relating to indictable offences. They should then be scanned and entered into a database where a permanent, secure electronic record can be kept. Pottruff says there are policies on retention, but they’re not consistent across the country.
— The informing of victims of crime when their cases are resolved. That is in place with the new Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.
— Door to compensation should not be closed for lack of proof of factual innocence where a miscarriage of justice has resulted from an obvious breach of good faith in the application of standards expected of police, prosecution or the courts. Pottruff says there is always an executive power within government to compensate.
— Investigation of wrongful conviction claims should be done by a review agency independent of government. The federal government has not done this and instead points to the Criminal Conviction Review Group, which reports to the minister within the Justice Department.
The Canadian Press