Rehtaeh Parsons case review delayed

Independent review put on hold until after trial

Former Ontario deputy attorney general Murray Segal speaks Thursday about delays to his independent review of the Rehtaeh Parsons case. (Photo: Kristie Smith)

The review of the police response in the Rehtaeh Parsons case is being delayed until the trial of two men charged in the case finishes.

The province hired Murray Segal, former deputy attorney general of Ontario, to start an independent review in August. The review will look into the Public Prosecution Service and police response, and make recommendations to the province.

“I think that a more effective report can come once the court process is over,” says Segal, “I think it will be more thorough, it will have more context, and that’s my best judgement. I have, and will be, making use of the time and be as productive as possible.”

Segal estimates the delays could last between six to nine months.

The decision comes two months into the review and will continue at full capacity once the court proceedings against two men in the case are finished. Before the announcement was made, Segal spoke with the Parsons family, whom he says supports the decision.

His recommendation to delay the process was accepted by attorney general and Finance Minister Lena Diab, who also spoke with the family last night.

“At this point I’m going to have to trust the court system and the judiciary to move this along as they see fit,” says Diab, who has only been in office for two weeks.

“More importantly, it’s best to have a comprehensive report that will help us in this province, but also nationally. It’s better to have one that we can use, than have one that has been termed ‘fluff’ and is just not usable,” she says.

The review will look at the impact of technology on youth, their families, their interaction with the justice system and with police investigations. It will also look specifically into the police and Public Prosecution Services’ handling of the Parsons case.

“This issue, in terms of cyberbullying, is obviously something the province has given a lot of thought to. It’s an issue that is playing out in other jurisdictions and often with tragic results,” says Segal. “The hope here is to make some recommendations that will improve the justice system.”

Police restarted the investigation into Parsons case after public outcry and four charges related to child pornography have been laid but so far none for the alleged assaults.

Parsons was 17 years old when she died, her suicide attributed to an alleged gang rape that took place in November 2011 and subsequent cyberbullying and harassment.

Her death has since inspired legislation in Nova Scotia allowing victims of cyberbullying to seek legal protection and sue their harassers.

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