21 February 2010

The Elizabeth Towers Fire Inquiry – the Release of the Reports of the Investigation

Continued from Part 2 – The Elizabeth Towers Fire and its Investigation

I must now turn to the evidence relating directly to the release of the reports of June 7th and July 12th to the news media.  That evidence was given by Sergeant Pike and Mr. William Rowe who, at that time, was the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Assembly of the Province.  This part of the enquiry deals also with the question of whether there was justification for the release of the reports.

Pike said that on the basis of the reports of June 7th and July 12th he "felt that there was reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a criminal act had been committed".

Pike was removed from the investigation because of a conversation which he had with Mrs. Nugent who was then the private secretary to the Premier-of the Province.  The conversation took place when he was flying to St. Anthony after he had been recalled from his vacation on or about August 1st in order to give Inspector Randell whatever information he had about the investigation.  Pike was asked what he was supposed to have said to Mrs. Nugent that resulted in his.being removed from the investigation.  He said:
"I was accused by Inspector Randell when I came back off my annual leave of telling her that Dr. Farrell was going to be charged and accused me of asking to see the Premier".
He said that it was alleged that ho had disclosed part of the contents of the report,  lie war; ached whether the charge was accurate and gave the following somewhat enlightening reply:
"Not completely.  Partially, I suppose.  I did speak to Mrs. Nugent and Dr. Farrell's name did come up briefly at the airport before we left. I attempted to explain this to Inspector Randall.  However, I think his mind had already been made up to transfer me or somebody made it up for him.  He didn't ask me what happened.  I tried to explain to him but he didn't appear to want to listen."
The one thing which appears from this evidence is Pike's apparent tendency to indiscretion in discussing police matters with unauthorized persons - an undesirable trait in a police officer.  Understandably, Pike was upset because he was taken off the Elizabeth Towers fire investigation, even though it was through his own fault.
Pike was asked what his mental and physical state was at that time.  He said:
"... I was concerned about this investigation and because of remarks made to me and I was at times nervous - or probably "frightened" would be the word - during the investigation."
Pike said that he had been upset by several remarks which the Director of Public Prosecutions had made to him.  He said that the first occasion on which Kelly made remarks to him was approximately two weeks after the investigation started. 

At that time, Randell told him that Kelly wanted to see him alone and unofficially about the Elizabeth' Towers fire. As a result, he saw Kelly who told him that he wanted to be brought up to date because the Minister of Justice was going out of town and might want to be brought up to date.  He brought Kelly up to date, telling him that the police suspected arson.

I must observe that I do not see that there was anything sinister about Kelly's enquiry.  The investigation was still going on and Pike was not conducting it himself, so he would not be in a position to make a full, official report.  On the other hand, he could be expected to have some idea of how it was progressing.  It would not be unusual for the Director of Public Prosecutions to look for some advance information such as he sought.

Then, too, he might well expect the Minister to show some interest in the investigation under all the circumstances. On the other hand, the mere possibility of the Minister's asking a question should not be interpreted as indicating some ulterior motive on his part or on Kelly's part. Pike's reaction suggests a somewhat exaggerated interpretation of Kelly's enquiry.

Pike related another conversation which he suggested upset him and, I should think, was intended to reflect on Kelly but which, in my view, reflects on Pike instead. Here is his evidence verbatim:
"Yes, there was another conversation with Mr. Kelly.  I don't recall the exact time but I mentioned to him during the conversation about the fire ... 'You know, John, your name was mentioned during the investigation’… and he said: 'In what way?', and I said: 'Do you know anybody by the name of Doucette?' and he said: 'Jerry Doucette? Yes, I do.  He is a very good friend of mine .. . The, Farrell family are also good friends of mine and I have been to Dr. Farrell's apartment on a number of occasions ... For that reason … I am not going to get involved in this investigation’ ".
There was nothing unusual in Kelly's decision not to be involved in the investigation if he was a friend of Dr. Farrell or of members of his family.  That is the kind of conflict which arises on occasion and a person who must remain objective follows the discreet course of dissociating himself from some activity in which his participation might be questioned because of social or business associations.

Pike said that he found it unusual that Kelly then did not discontinue his involvement in the matter, even though he admitted that as Director of Public Prosecutions Kelly would have to have some involvement.  The answer to Pike's concern, though, is found in the fact that the responsibility for the handling of the file for the Department of Justice was given to Robert Hyslop, Senior Crown Prosecutor in St. John's.  The significant aspect about this part of Pike's evidence is that it provides one more example of some form of obsession which he seems to have developed.

Pike related another episode which he alleged caused him concern.  He said that before the first report was made he was talking to Kelly when they were on route to Harbour Grace in connection with another matter. Pike said:
"... He asked me when he was going to get the report on it and I said to him jokingly 'I don't know, John boy.  Probably we may make an arrest first and give you a report afterwards'.  It was a joke as far as I was concerned.  But he said 'Don't arrest Dr. Farrell.  If you do, I'll ask for a stay of prosecution. The Minister has to be notified first before any charges are laid’."
Pike said that he was being facetious but he did not think that Kelly was being facetious as well, that Kelly appeared quite serious.  Kelly did not recollect details of that conversation.  It seems to me that Pike was in a mental state which caused him to exaggerate to himself the implications of anything said or done in connection with the Elizabeth Towers fire investigation. Even if the conversation was as he said it was, it must be remembered that the Minister of Justice, as Attorney General of the Province, had the ultimate responsibility for the administration of justice, and would be within the bounds of his responsibility if he wanted to be,kept advised about the investigation, charges arising out if it and so on.  As a senior police officer, Pike would be expected to appreciate that.  I shall refer again to the role of the Minister of Justice in this matter.

I have no doubt that Pike was upset when he felt that lie had been removed from the investigation because he had spoken to Mrs. Nugent about the investigation.

Pike had access to the reports which had been filed and at some point made a copy of the report of June 7th and the one of July 12th,  When he made them he did so because he might need to refer to them in the course of his work and it would be more convenient to have them at hand.  He put them in his filing cabinet, where he left them for a while.  Then he took them home one night to read them and left them there.  I come now to the release of those reports by Pike.

Pike said that he "felt that there was the possibility of a cover-up going on at the time ... because of the remarks by Mr. Kelly ... and also the fact that the investigation was being dragged out so long".  That was his opinion and he felt that he was not alone in holding that opinion.  He also felt that there was a cover-up going on because "other investigative reports where action was recommended had gone to the proper channels to the Department of Justice where no action was taken".  When he was asked who made the final decision as to whether charges were laid, Pike said that as far as he was concerned it was the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Pike was asked to be specific about the other investigations to which he referred and he provided details of them.  The Director of Public Prosecutions" was, in turn,asked to state what, action had been taken in each case. He did so.  In each instance he was able to give an acceptable reason for not prosecuting.  The only possible criticism that may be made was the failure of the Department to ensure that the police knew why the prosecutions had not been proceeded with.

At some point Pike decided that he was going to reveal information about the fire investigation and what he described as the cover-up.  On September 16th, 1978 he telephoned James Thoms, Editor [sic] of the Daily News, a newspaper published in St. John's, and said that he had some information for Thoms.  He asked Thoms if he would come to his house and Thorns went.  He showed Thoms the copies of the June 7th and July 12th reports. Thorns read them, made notes of them and left.  Thoms consulted with William Callahan, the publisher of the Daily News.  Callahan telephoned Macaulay and indicated that the Daily News had the two reports.  He asked Macaulay if charges had been laid and, if not, when they would be laid,  Macaulay said that he told Callahan that he did not know.  Indeed, he did not know whether charges would ever be laid.  Macaulay told the enquiry that at that point the investigation was still going on, that he was awaiting a final report, and that a firm decision had not been made about whether charges would be laid.

Thoms said that the Daily News published a story about the investigation on Thursday, September 21st. The paper did not use the name of Dr. Farrell in the story because, initially, the publishers were influenced by the fact that the conclusions in the report were police opinions.

Thoms said that Pike gave him the information on condition that he would not divulge the source. (Incidentally, at the enquiry Thoms gave his evidence after Pike admitted that he showed the reports to Thorns.) There was no mention of any prohibition on publication. That is significant in assessing Pike's evidence in which he said that when he gave the reports to William Rowe he "had no idea that the reports would be leaked to the news media".

A week after his meeting with Thoms, Pike went a step further in disclosing the reports of June 7th and July 12th.  He decided that he was going to give information to a member of the House of Assembly.  He admitted that he did not go to anybody in the Newfoundland Constabulary senior to Inspector Randell.  When pressed on the point he further admitted that when he decided that he was going to go through political channels he had not exhausted all of the resources within the Constabulary to bring pressure to bear to have a prosecution go ahead.

He intended at first to speak to Edward Roberts, a solicitor and member of the House of Assembly. On Saturday, September 23rd, 1978, he telephoned William Rowe, the leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly and asked him for Roberts' private telephone number.  Rowe could not provide the number. Then Pike asked Rowe if he could come to Pike's home because he would like to talk to Rowe about a cover-up involved in regard to the investigation of the Elizabeth Towers fire.  The first thing that is quite clear in respect of the communication with Rowe, as well as with Thorns, is that Pike took the initiative, that nobody sought him out or tried to get information from him.

Rowe went to Pike's house and picked him up. They drove around St. John's while Pike talked. In reporting the conversation Rowe said:
"... he was talking to me about a cover-up, about the fact that the investigation into the Elizabeth Towers fire ... because he knew there was a cover-up and footdragging [sic] going on.  He indicated ... to use his own words ... that 'Alec Hickman was out to get him' and he had been removed from the case.  He indicated that there were a couple of incidents ... early in August ... whereby he may have divulged some information and that this may have also led to his dismissal from the case as an investigator ... I asked Sergeant Pike ...Do you have copies of the report?'  He indicated that he did ... I said: 'May I have a look at them’ and he said 'No.'  I said to him 'Well, you obviously must have leaked it to the Daily News … He vehemently denied having leaked it ... We talked generally and it had to do generally with the cover-up, with the fact that nothing is going to happen on this particular report and this investigation ... I then … dropped him off at his home again."
Rowe was asked to describe Pike's condition at the time of the meeting.  He said Pike gave the appearance of being intoxicated and yet he did not smell any liquor off his breath.  Pike in his own evidence said that he had had a couple of drinks before he met Rowe but that he was not under the influence of alcohol.  Rowe said that Pike could have been under medication, that he was "somewhat incoherent". There may be significance in the rest of Rowe's description of Pike's behaviour.  It could provide an insight into his emotional state and into the reason for his conduct. Rowe said that Pike
"... was alternately aggressive and unaggressive ... in his actions and attitudes".
Rowe said that he asked Pike why he was in that condition at that time.  Rowe went on:
"... he told me that he was under a considerable amount of stress and strain, that he had been removed from the case, that Alex Hickman was out to get him, that there was a cover-up going on and that he was under severe strain.  He indicated obliquely that he was under a doctor's care as well at the time ... He appeared to be very upset... It was an aggressive attitude and also, concerning the Department of Justice  concerning the authorities,  and also on occasion he would become almost self-pitying in his attitudes, he would, you know, say 'They're out to get me', that kind of an attitude".
It must have been quite apparent to Rowe that he was dealing with a person who was in such a disturbed state that it should have been questionable whether he should deal with him at all, let alone give him any encouragement to go any further.  And yet, that was what happened.  Later on that same Saturday Pike telephoned Rowe again and said he had something to show him. Rowe suspected that Pike wanted to show him the report, so he picked up Pike again.  Rowe said that at this second meeting, Pike's condition was similar to what it had been at the time of the first meeting.  They drove to the Kenmount Road area and parked.  Pike showed Rowe a letter which apparently had nothing to do with the investigation.  Then, Rowe said, Pike told him that he had the reports but that he was not going to show them to Rowe.  After 15 or 20 minutes' discussion, Pike showed the reports to Rowe.  At this point I must turn my attention to conflicting evidence as to whether Pike gave Rowe the reports on Saturday night.

Rowe said that Pike did not give him the reports, that on the following Monday morning he found them in an envelope in his mail box.  Pike said that he gave them to Rowe on Saturday night.  Pike gave his evidence first.  In view of Rowe's evidence which was given later, Pike was re-called and given the opportunity to give further evidence but he was definite in his assertion that he gave Rowe the reports on Saturday night.  I shall look first at Pike's evidence.  The following exchange took place between Counsel and Pike.
A. ... I showed him the reports and he glanced over the reports. And up to this point I never had made any decision to give him the reports and then he said 'Well, can I have the report1 and I said 'Yes, take them'.
Q. Did he make any comment after he read the report?
A. He did say something to the effect that these reports are dynamite.
Q. So you then decided to give him copies of the report?
A. Yes.  I gave him two copies.
Q. Now, then, what happened after you had given Mr. Rowe the copies of the report?
A. He dropped me off.
Q. Were there any conditions placed on your passing these reports to Mr. Rowe?
A. Well, I told Mr. Rowe not to have these reports hanging around. I told him to destroy these copies and he said he would copy them and destroy them.
Q. Why did you ask him that?
A. Because I felt there was a possibility that it could be traced back to the copying machine.
Q. And hence to you?
A.  Yes.
Q. Were you anxious at this time to conceal the .1 act that you had given these reports to Mr. Rowe?
A, Well, I didn't ... My concern was that of a cover-up and I didn't want to be ... have it traced back to me.  No.

Q. Did you ask him to keep the documents in confidence?
A.  I don't remember asking him that but I told him that it was for his information only.

Q. Did you suspect that the reports might go further?
A. I had no idea that the reports would be leaked to the news media. None whatsoever.
Q. Were you aware that that was a risk?
A. Yes, I suppose you could say that.
Q. And you elected to take that risk?
A. Yes.
The following relevant questions and answers are extracted from the record of Rowe's evidence:
Q. ... Did you feel you had any rights to the reports at that time?
A.  In the circumstances of this particular case I felt, yes, that I had a right ... to examine the reports and find out what the investigation had concluded ... I considered it to be part of my duty as the Leader of the Opposition, as Member of the House of Assembly ... I was given the documents as a politician and a Leader of the Opposition.

Q. Did  I occur to you that Sergeant Pike might have been doing something illegal or contrary to the Constabulary Rules in passing out these documents?
A. Yes, that did occur to me.
Q. And regardless of that you elected to accept the documents?
A. I did.

Q. Were these documents given to you in confidence or with any conditions attached?
A.  No. they were not.
Q. Did not Sergeant Pike say to you that these were given to you as an officer of the Court?
A, No. ... What was in fact said to me was that these documents indicate a cover-up and that he wanted me to have them and that was the sum and substance of the conversation.
Q. Were you asked not to give copies to anybody, keep them in confidence?
A. No.
Q. They were for your personal use?
A. No.
Q. Did you agree to destroy the copies he gave you?
A. No.
Q. Did you tell him that you would do so and make copies on your own copier?
A. No.
Q. What did you do with copies of Exhibits 1 and 2  (the reports) after you left Sergeant Pike?
A. I studied the reports ... and  I had to make up my mind what action I should take, if any, concerning them.
In later testimony Rowe was asked about an interview he had with members of the Newfoundland Constabulary who were investigating the release of the reports.  At that time he told the police that the reports had appeared in his mail box in a brown envelope on the following Monday morning.  Rowe said that that was how the reports came to him and that he had no idea of how they came to be in his mail box.  He denied strongly that Pike gave him the reports at their meeting.  That was the substance of lengthy questioning on the matter. Pike was questioned again and repeated his evidence that he gave Rowe the reports when they met on Saturday night. On the basis of the evidence which I have reproduced at length I am satisfied that Pike did give the reports to Rowe on Saturday night.

Rowe made several copies of the two reports and on Tuesday, September 26th, 1978 he telephoned what he described as "the most senior newsmen and editors that I was aware of in St. John's".  He listed them as Steve Herder, publisher of the Evening Telegram, Basil Jamieson, vice-president of news with CJYQ Radio, James Furlong, news editor of NTV News, Paddy Gregg, the CBC national television news representative in Newfoundland and Carl Cooper, news director at Radio Station VOCM.  He told each of them that he had a copy of the two police reports and asked them whether they wished to have a copy for their own perusal.  He said that there were "no strings attached, no conditions attached, no stipulations as to what, if anything, they were to do with the report". He considered that there was a cover-up going on and what he "wanted to do was to leave it entirely in the hands of these senior editors and news directors and newsmen as to what, if anything, they wanted to do with the reports".

Each of the people whom Rowe contacted said that he would like to receive the report.  Rowe, himself, then put a copy of each report in an envelope and addressed an envelope to each of the persons named. He then gave the envelopes to his executive assistant, Brian Tobin, with instructions to deliver the envelopes as addressed,  Tobin did that.  Rowe did not tell Tobin what the envelopes contained, so Tobin had no direct knowledge of their contents.  He may have speculated on the contents because Rowe had let him know about the reports.  However, he did not really know what was in the envelopes.  He had no responsibility for releasing the contents of the reports.  That responsibility rested entirely with Sergeant Arthur Pike of the Newfoundland Constabulary, who released the copies of the reports to Mr. William Rowe, and with Mr. Rowe who copied the reports and then sent copies to representatives of the news media.

The Evening Telegram published a story on the front page of its edition of September 27th, the day following delivery of the copies of the report. Basil Jamieson said that he looked over the reports and decided not to use the material because its 'use would be contrary to the policy of CJYQ Radio.  He said that he exercised editorial judgment in reaching a decision.  That was in line with the station's policy against reporting of names of persons charged in certain types of cases, suicide victims, and others.  He said that the policy would extend to not using the name of a person who was under investigation for a serious crime but against whom charges had not been laid.  He considered that publication of a name under those circumstances might prejudice the right of that person to a fair trial.

James Furlong, news editor of NTV News reported to the Chief of Police of the Newfoundland Constabulary that he had the copies of the reports because that morning the Daily News carried a story that the police were conducting an internal investigation concerning the story which had been published earlier in that paper. Furlong told the Chief of Police that he was not going to use the name of any person mentioned in the report. He said that was because he had been "schooled in journalism to not use a. name unless the person has been formally charged".  That was the way the story was written and published in a newscast that night.  He said that he took the earlier Daily News story and used the bulk of the information from that as the bulk of his story.  In fact, he said, no new information was presented in the story that his station carried.  The only thing added was that he had physical possession of the reports.

There was no evidence before the enquiry as to whether the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used the reports because Paddy Gregg, to whom the reports had been sent, had been transferred out of the Province and was not available as a witness.

Carl Cooper, the news director of Radio Station VOCM and Elmer Harris, vice-president of news at the station, gave evidence of how they handled the reports when they received them.  When they opened the envelope which contained the reports and saw the provincial crest on some of the paper they concluded that they had received confidential reports and they decided to contact the police.  The station did not use the reports as a basis for any news stories.

In conclusion and in formally answering the first question set out in the Terms of Reference, Sergeant Arthur Pike was responsible for releasing the reports of June 7th and July 12th, 1978 to William Rowe and for the release of information to the Daily News.  William Rowe was responsible for the copying of the reports and for their transmission to the news media.  Brian Tobin delivered the copies of the reports to the news media but he did so as an employee and under the direction of William Rowe without knowledge of what was in the envelopes which he had been ordered to deliver in the course of his employment.  He, therefore, must be absolved of responsibility for any acts connected with the release, delivery or publication of the reports.

The Daily News was responsible for the publication of a story on September 21st which I have already referred to.  The Evening Telegram was responsible for the publication of a story on September 27th,  NTV News published a story but not based on the reports which were received from William Rowe.

Next – The Question of Justification