Colin McKinnon, QC, was asked to conduct a full and impartial review into how the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service handled and disclosed information related to a former medical examiner to defence counsel and their clients.
“We want to thank Mr. McKinnon for his work in conducting this investigation and for his recommendations that will help us strengthen the high-quality prosecution services we have in our province.
“Alberta’s government takes concerns about potential miscarriages of justice very seriously – ensuring public faith in the administration of justice is of the utmost importance.
“We are pleased that no miscarriages of justice have been found and we will continue to strive to always ensure the justice system is fair and impartial for all Albertans.”
In his review, McKinnon found the prosecution service acted in good faith and approached these issues in a highly principled manner. Further, the prosecution service took all reasonable steps to identify and disclose relevant documents to defence counsel.
He noted that the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service was “highly principled, well-organized, and inclusive” in addressing disclosure obligations.
McKinnon was given a wide scope to review 16 criminal cases. He examined the steps the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service took to identify any possible miscarriages of justice and to make recommendations.
The review identified some instances of nondisclosure, but in no case did it find that nondisclosure reflected bad faith conduct by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service. It further found that these instances did not result in a miscarriage of justice.
The report makes four procedural recommendations, all of which the prosecution service accepted and addressed. Adjustments to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service’s internal disclosure manual and internal policy, which guides disclosure practices by prosecutors, have been made.
- The medical examiner reports in question were produced by Dr. Evan Matshes between 2010 and 2011. In 2012, an expert panel reviewed his findings and determined that conclusions made in 13 out of 14 investigations were “unreasonable.” The panel’s review was quashed by an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench order in 2013.
- The report and McKinnon’s covering letter have been redacted as needed to comply with privacy legislation and to address privacy concerns of those involved. Personal information that has not been redacted from the report is included because it appears on a publicly available court file.
- McKinnon recommended four enhancements to Alberta Crown Prosecution Service processes, which include:
- Procedures around redacting sensitive information within a potential disclosure item instead of obtaining a new version that omits sensitive information.
- Adopting a policy that covering letters or emails accompanying disclosure materials should be reviewed for potentially disclosable information.
- Adopting a policy clarifying that relevant documents and information must be disclosed even if they are substantively redundant.
- Procedures around obtaining and disclosing materials in one or more criminal cases.