P.E.I. justice minister will call inquest for man who died in provincial jail

·3 min read
Kenneth Hoddinott died on Dec. 16 at the Provincial Correctional Centre, located in Winsloe, P.E.I.  (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)
Kenneth Hoddinott died on Dec. 16 at the Provincial Correctional Centre, located in Winsloe, P.E.I. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

An inquest will be called into the death of a man who died at Prince Edward Island's Provincial Correctional Centre, although the province had initially said such a proceeding was not needed under provincial law.

Kenneth Hoddinott, 47, was found unresponsive in the lock-up area during routine checks on Dec. 16. Staff administered CPR but he was pronounced dead.

The native of Shoe Cove, N.L. will be buried in his hometown this spring, according to a death notice placed by his family.

Last week, the Department of Justice and Public Safety told CBC News the coroner's office had ruled an inquest unnecessary under the terms of section 18 of the Coroners Act, which triggers an automatic inquest when there has been "an unnatural and/or preventable death" in custody.

On Tuesday, Minister of Justice Bloyce Thompson told CBC News that the coroner's initial investigation found Hoddinott died as a result of a "cardiac event," and that's why the coroner's office deemed an inquest unnecessary.

P.E.I. legislation permits either the coroner or the minister of justice and public safety to call an inquest at any time, however.

If we can address some of the social issues surrounding this, I think it would be the best for the future. — Bloyce Thompson

"I think the public deserves to know the circumstances around it, and I am willing to call this inquest," Thompson said.

"I am in charge of the correctional facility, it's under my watch and it's closed to the public, of course.

"There's a lot of questions … when you have an incident like this, where someone loses their life in custody. I think it's the best for transparency for all Islanders."

CBC News/Kirk Pennell
CBC News/Kirk Pennell

The minister also said it's important to look not just back, but forward at times like this.

"It is more than just our justice system; it's our social system, it's our health care. It's a big picture that we can share what comes out of this — and whatever recommendations come from the coroner, we can use to make sure this never happens again."

Thompson said he didn't know whether P.E.I.'s mobile mental health unit could have helped Hoddinott the night he was detained by police for public intoxication and taken to the correctional centre.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance and my heart goes to the family of Mr. Hoddinott," he said. "If we can prevent this from happening again, if we can address some of the social issues surrounding this, I think it would be the best for the future."

Calls for an inquest into Hoddinott's death came from opposition politicians and people who had known him as someone who struggled with alcohol addiction.

The Prince Edward Island Green Party's justice critic welcomes news that Thompson intends to call an inquest after all.

Lynne Lund says it's not about laying blame.

"We can have this an an opportunity to really dig in on some of the circumstances that led this individual to being incarcerated in the first place.

"It really leads to questions about whether or not jails are the right place for us to be dealing with mental health issues. Are they the right place to be dealing with additions issues?"

CBC
CBC

On Monday, an addictions and mental health advocate who met Hoddinott in recovery spoke of him as someone keen to help others on the road to sobriety. When Ellen Taylor met him, the father of three had not been drinking for a year.

She too has been calling for an inquest.

"I think they owe it to him and his family," she said. "I think they owe it to people who struggle with mental health and addictions in this province."

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