Police review into Cape Breton driveway dispute wraps up

Cape Breton man dies in crash on Highway 327

A Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing in Sydney wrapped up Tuesday with testimony from the third Cape Breton Regional Police officer accused by a local couple of neglecting his duties.

Supt. Walter Rutherford said he met Stephanie Bonner and Edward (Ted) O'Quinn at least twice over complaints they had with how officers were dealing with various issues. 

The two were embroiled in a protracted dispute over a shared driveway with their neighbours in Sydney Forks who are related to Const. John Campbell of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service.

The complainants allege Campbell threatened them and influenced a criminal investigation related to the dispute that led to charges against them. ​

Property dispute 'crossed the line'

Bonner had questioned the validity of charges laid against her and she complained to Rutherford that officers were not responding to her calls about speeding in her driveway.

Bonner and O'Quinn were charged with mischief and criminal harassment in September 2012. The criminal harassment charged against Bonner was dropped at the start of the trial in January 2014. She was acquitted on the mischief charge. O'Quinn was acquitted of both charges.

Rutherford testified at the police board hearing that he would normally not get involved in a property dispute, but "this crossed the line" with allegations of criminal misconduct.

He said he asked another officer, Staff Sgt. Ken O'Neil, to review the case. He said O'Neil's review consisted of police reports, speaking with investigating officers and the Crown attorney.

No authority to withdraw charges

Rutherford said he did not understand that Bonner was trying to make a formal complaint and did not offer her a Form 5, which is a standard police complaint form in Nova Scotia. She was eventually given the form by another high-ranking police officer.

Rutherford also testified he did not speak with the investigating officer in the Bonner and O'Quinn case and that he did not have the authority to withdraw charges against them.

"The Crown attorney's office has the authority to withdraw charges," he said.

Rutherford, Campbell and a third officer, Const. Donald (D.W.) Reginato, are accused of neglecting their duties.

Campbell is also accused of acting in a disorderly manner or in a manner that is reasonably likely to bring discredit on the reputation of the police service, as well as being discourteous or uncivil to a member of the public.

Summations next month

The board will decide if any of the three officers breached the code of conduct and if so, decide on penalties.

Campbell has already been disciplined by Cape Breton Regional Police after it was determined he acted in a disorderly manner and was discourteous or uncivil to a member of the public.

A reprimand letter was temporarily placed on his personnel file and Campbell was also required to take an ethics and accountability course. He is appealing that discipline.

The complainants and defence lawyers will submit their written summations to the review board next month. The board will issue a ruling some time after that.