Prison guards charged in Henoche homicide named in court documents

·4 min read

Charges against 10 correctional officers at Her Majesty's Penitentiary — all accused of playing a part in inmate Jonathan Henoche's death — have been sworn in court.

Listed on the provincial court docket on Friday are the following:

  • Jason Anthony, manslaughter.

  • Jeff Thistle, manslaughter and failure to provide necessaries of life.

  • David Constantine, manslaughter.

  • Chris Coady, negligence causing death.

  • Stefan Cumby, negligence causing death.

  • Daniel Dalton, negligence causing death.

  • Scott Dwyer, negligence causing death.

  • Jenine Rickert, negligence causing death.

  • Riley Ricks, negligence causing death.

  • Lori Williams, negligence causing death.

Their identification comes 18 days after the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary announced the arrests.

Police and the Department of Justice remained mum on the guards' identities during that time, despite pressure to release the names, citing privacy legislation and an ongoing investigation.

A spokesperson for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said Friday the investigation remained active in the days following the arrests, so the charges were not sworn. None of their names were published in the public docket until now because the charges against them were not filed immediately.

The delay between those the arrests and the identification of the accused resulted in scathing criticism from one MHA earlier this week.

Lela Evans, the PC representative for Torngat Mountains — Henoche's home region on the north coast of Labrador — called it shameful and damaging to public trust in justice.

Henoche, a 33-year-old Inuk man from Nain, was in St. John's while awaiting a first-degree murder trial. He was accused of killing Regula Schule, 88, in 2016.

He died in custody on Nov. 6, 2019. After a yearlong investigation, the RNC announced on Dec. 21 they had arrested several prison workers in relation to Henoche's death, later confirming the number of employees arrested and their ages.

He was being held in protective custody at Her Majesty's Penitentiary at the time of his death.

'Need for transparency extremely high'

The public relations around the case has Tom Engel — a lawyer in Edmonton and president of the Canadian Prison Law Association — scratching his head.

Why would police make arrests in such a high-profile case when they were not in a position to swear the charges and release the names?

"It's almost beside the point whether it's a formal charge or not," Engel told The St. John's Morning Show on Friday morning, before the names of the accused appeared on the docket.

"The public interest is high. The need for transparency is extremely high. I do not understand why the names [were not] released, because that is out of the ordinary."

Lost Time Media
Lost Time Media

Engel is also concerned with the RNC's decision to arrest the 10 guards in connection with a homicide and release them without an appearance in court for a bail hearing.

"Somebody gets charged with manslaughter, they normally are taken before a justice of the peace, not released by a police officer," Engel said. "The police should be more often releasing people without taking them for a bail hearing. But it is a double standard. This is not the way it normally goes."

CBC News has consulted several veteran lawyers in the province — including former Crown prosecutors — who all said they cannot recall a single case in Newfoundland and Labrador's history where someone was arrested for manslaughter or murder and was not held in custody for a bail hearing.

Justice Minister Steve Crocker says the decision did not come from his department. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary confirmed it was a choice made by the major case management team within the force's criminal investigation unit, in line with the Canadian Criminal Code.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Indeed, the law does not limit these types of releases for serious offences like manslaughter. Instead, it says police must consider three things before deciding to hold someone in custody — whether their identity is confirmed, whether they are a flight risk and whether they are a danger to the public.

"I don't think they've broken any law," Engel said. "They probably haven't broken any police regulation laws in Newfoundland. It's just, I don't think they can really be held to account except in the court of public opinion."

Engel says all public officials involved in this case have an obligation to communicate better, or they risk losing the trust of the people.

"They all have a duty to the public to explain why they have proceeded in this extraordinary way," he said.

All 10 of the accused are scheduled to appear in provincial court in St. John's on Feb 11.

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