Tuesday, July 03, 2012




29 JUNE 2012

Fredericton city council could not have picked a better person to review how the capital’s police force handled the controversial Charles LeBlanc criminal libel case.

Former New Brunswick ombudsman and child youth advocate Bernard Richard will take three months to look into how the decision was made by police to raid LeBlanc’s Westmorland Street residence and seize a computer, a camera and other items on Jan. 19.

Richard held a number of high profile cabinet portfolios in the former Mckenna government and afterwards.

But he is best known as the man who looked after our most vulnerable citizens and we feel better knowing he is on this job.

In 2007 the Daily Gleaner named him newsmaker of the year. He dealt with some of the province’s most disturbing cases including: prison death of 19-year-old Ashley Smith; the death of two-year-old Juli-Anna St. Peters of Canterbury from a perforated bowel; and the first-degree murder of a baby just a few minutes old in St. Stephen in 2009.

He took on issues such as French immersion, mental health services for youth, First Nations youth, a hospital safe haven for newborns, youth at risk, youth with special needs and youth in the court system.

He retired in 2011.

LeBlanc, a blogger and media gadfly, has had several run ins with the Fredericton police, ranging from riding his bicycle on the sidewalk without a helmet to loudly protesting outside the police station with a megaphone.

But it was his online derogatory comments about a police officer that triggered the raid and the unusual charge of criminal libel.

The Crown prosecutor subsequently threw that charge out because it has failed other constitutional challenges.

Society demands that all police forces be held accountable for their actions.

The police have limited resources and as irritating as LeBlanc can be at times, someone decided he needed to be charged with all the court and lawyer time that involves rather than proceeding with a civil libel case.

Wisely, police Chief Barry MacKnight decided the police could not investigate themselves.

By appointing someone of Richard’s standing, the city instantly gained credibility and we don’t expect to hear any cries of cover up.

Richard will look into process and procedures used by police as they relate to the administration of criminal files, the police force and the good government of the municipality.

He can decide who to talk to and from whom to receive written submissions. Richard’s mandate says he will “make any recommendations which the investigators may deem appropriate and advisable in the public interest and as a result of the review.”

We eagerly look forward to his report.

No comments: