30 September 2016

Jerome! rides again #nlpoli

Retired justice David Riche is the only independent person who has examined any information about Don Dunphy's death.

Hired by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as an outside reviewer of its investigation into Dunphy's death,  Riche had an unusual but informed perspective.  Riche's comments to reporters last week about the Dunphy shooting and the police investigation did not fit with the carefully fabricated, self-serving comments made over the past few months by the police officer who shot and killed Dunphy.

That's why former justice minister Jerome! Kennedy smeared Riche this week.  Kennedy wants to damage Riche's credibility.  Kennedy represents the police officer who killed Dunphy and who will be,  not surprisingly, the focus of much of the public inquiry conducted by Justice Leo Barry.

The fact that Kennedy's unprincipled and unwarranted attack is so transparent in its purpose means it will be ineffective, at least as far as Barry's inquiry will go.  But the prospect that Kennedy will try to turn the make the inquiry a circus is cause for public concern and condemnation.

To be sure,  there is a potential issue in the role Riche played in the investigation.  Justice Barry has already commented on it.  But being interested in exploring Riche's activities and his report is a long way from smearing Riche personally, as Kennedy tried to do.

Kennedy is known for this sort of attack on those who cannot defend themselves publicly. Comments Kennedy made about judges in 2005 led Chief Justice Derek Green to complain to the law society about the sometimes abrasive lawyer.   Kennedy made amends and the Chief Justice withdrew the complaint that Kennedy had violated the profession's code of conduct.

Kennedy seemed to mature during his time in politics. He had success in justice and health,  producing much-needed reforms.  This reckless attack on Riche looks like Kennedy is returning to the immature style of his younger years.  If that's the way Kennedy plans to behave, Justice Barry will undoubtedly sort him out in no uncertain terms. Barry does not suffer fools and when Barry and Kennedy have crossed paths in court,  the judge had no trouble telling Kennedy to sit down and shut up in precisely those words.

In a bigger sense, though,  this doesn't bode well for the inquiry. That's why this is more serious than just Jerome shooting his mouth off in the media.  His client is not the victim in this case.  Thus far, the officer has not made himself out to be a sympathetic figure.  If the officer is to come out of this in a better professional position than he has now,  Kennedy will need to display a more measured,  mature, and professional manner than he has shown thus far.  If he persists, Kennedy's behaviour will make it all that much easier for people to believe the worst about his client.

The officer's reputation isn't the only one at stake here. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's reputation in the public eye will be sorely tested by the Barry inquiry. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are already acutely aware of the high potential for damage they face.  It's no accident they've withheld Riche's report.  Nor is it surprising that they didn't send out the B Division commanding officer to deal with the media about the external review of their case.  One lone sergeant, sitting behind a desk, clearly lacking authority or information, ducking and dodging questions from reporters looked terrible.  It was the tell-tale sign of an organization that is afraid of what will become public during the inquiry

The Barry Inquiry will not just be looking into the Dunphy shooting.  Justice Barry will have to help restore public confidence in the police,  the administration of justice, and political offices tainted by the hint of excess and abuse of power.  The people of Newfoundland and Labrador need a mature investigation of a tragedy.  They do not need and do not deserve a circus.  If Jerome Kennedy is planning to don the big floppy shoes and red nose he used to prance around in, he should think again. We already have enough clowns talking about what happened to Don Dunphy that Easter Sunday morning. We don't need another one representing the police officer at the centre of the entire affair.