October 25, 2012
Inquest cleared to show video of teen jail suicide victim
By Kevin Connor, QMI Agency
TORONTO - A coroner's inquest slated to air explicit video of the abuse of a jailed teen who killed herself in a cell will be able to continue, a Divisional Court ruled on Wednesday.
Justice Joan Lax dismissed the motion to stay the proceedings in the case of troubled Ashley Smith, 19, who hanged herself in 1997 while in a solitary confinement cell in Kitchener, Ont.
Corrections Service Canada (CSC) was attempting to cover up the abuse Smith had to endure in jail, Smith family lawyer Julian Falconer said.
"A lot of what is going on is to drive these procedures into the ground. The Smith family won't give up. They (the CSC) don't want this public," Falconer said.
Coroner John Carlisle was supposed to hear pre-inquiry motions on Wednesday and screen the video but he adjourned proceedings to wait for the court's ruling.
"We have a motion for an emergency stay. We do not want to proceed and we are challenging the coroner's decision (to allow the video)," federal government lawyer Nancy Noble said.
The CSC argued that the video should stay out of the public eye so it didn't taint the jury pool for the inquest which will start Jan. 14.
Eighteen lawyers were able to convince Lax that should not be the case.
A stay would be a great disservice to the public, argued lawyer Richard Macklin, an Ontario child advocate.
A stay was not justified because the inquest is meant to save lives, added Mary Birdsell, a lawyer for the Empowerment Council.
Court heard a recent government study shows that there are roughly 600 women and 1,500 men in prison in Ontario and one-third of all inmates who harm themselves are women.
"Lives rest in the balance and granting a stay is justice denied to the public. People could continue to die if we don't deal with this in a timely way," Birdsell said.
The 32-minute video shows a mentally troubled Smith being duct-tapped to seats, forcibly medicated and strapped down for hours in wet clothes and no food.
Smith spent 11 months in custody at various jails for stealing a CD and throwing apples at a postal worker.
No date has been set to continue the inquiry.