Officer’s 'illegal' notes in Elmvale shooting should be scrutinized: lawyer
Eveyln Minty, 85, and her lawyer, Sunil Mathai, stand outside of the Hampton Inn in Barrie on Friday after a coroner’s inquest into the death of her son was put on hold. Douglas Minty, 59, was shot to death outside his mother's Elmvale home by an Ontario Provincial Police officer in 2009. Mathai wants the right to scrutinize the officer who shot Minty five times about his notes, but the OPP says its not appropriate. Last year, a court of appeal ruled it was against the law for the officer to get a lawyer to help him prepare his notes before they went to the SIU. TRACY MCLAUGHLIN PHOTO
A lawyer representing the family of a mentally challenged man who was shot to death by a police officer is fighting for the right to scrutinize the officer on the witness stand.
But Ontario Provincial Police and the Ontario Police Association are hotly challenging the idea and insist he has no right.
The argument has temporarily shut down a coroner’s inquest that is exploring the death of Douglas Minty, 59, who was shot five times in his driveway by OPP Const. Graham Seguin in Elmvale on June 22, 2009.
Seguin was responding to a 911 call from a water-heater salesman who claimed he had been punched in the face by Minty, who lived with his 81-year-old mother.
Later, the Special Investigations Unit found the officer’s actions were reasonable as Minty had come at him waving a small knife.
But much later it was discovered that Seguin was instructed by a senior officer not to make his notes of the incident until he got advice from a a lawyer before submitting his notes to the SIU – a procedure that was “downright illegal,” insists lawyer for the Minty family, Sunil Mathai.
And now Mathai wants the right to question the officer at the inquest about it in front of a jury.
Last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with Mathai, and ruled the officer’s note preparation was wrong at law, stating, “police officers involved in an SIU investigation do not enjoy the right to have a lawyer vet their notes or to assist them in the preparation of their notes.”
The OPP is now appealing that ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.
During legal arguments at the inquest, Mathai insisted the jury must hear about the “flawed” note-taking incident because it questions the reliability of the officer’s evidence.
“This jury has to inquire into all circumstances of the death of Mr. Minty,” Mathai said. “It is shocking to me that there is a suggestion that the reliability of this officer’s notes in not in the scope of the inquest.”
But OPP counsel insist there is nothing to be gained by raising the issue.
“The notes have no relevance in this proceeding,” insisted lawyer James Girvin for the Ontario Provincial Police Association. “We know what happened. … The officer saw a man approach him with a knife in his hand in an extremely threatening manner. That is the reality and that is the tragedy. … We have left no stone unturned and there is no additional information.”
The jury was sent home until Dr. Bert Lauwers rules on the matter, possibly late next week.
Meanwhile, Minty’s family appears frustrated as they sit in court each day, waiting for the inquest to begin. Minty’s mother, now 85, is expected to testify about what she saw the night her son was killed.
Coroner’s inquests serve as an investigative, social and preventative function. It involves public scrutiny of the conditions which may cause or contribute to the death of a member of the community. The jury’s duty is not to find fault, but rather to make recommendations that attempt to prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future.