Justice Minister Andrew Parsons has asked a civilian-led body in Nova Scotia to review the conduct of RNC Sgt. Tim Buckle in the Cst. Sean Kelly case.
That has prompted Buckle to threaten legal action for “malicious prosecution” against lawyer Graham Watton, as well as the RNC and the provincial government.
Kelly was convicted in 2015 of making indecent calls and committing public mischief by falsely implicating somebody else. During the trial, the judge noted a phone call Buckle had made to Kelly giving up a “heads up” about the investigation.
The case has been the subject of multiple reviews, but now Parsons wants the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team to take a look.
“I firmly believe that in serious incidents involving police, civilian oversight is necessary to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice,” Parsons said in a statement. “It is equally important that we provide a high level of transparency and accountability as we deal with serious incidents that involve our police agencies.
“As such, I have requested that the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) conduct an independent, external review and investigation into matters related to the conduct of Sergeant Tim Buckle respecting his involvement in a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary investigation into the actions of RNC Constable Sean Kelly. The SIRT mandate will encompass a review and investigation of all matters pertaining to the conduct of Sergeant Buckle in respect of this matter along with the resulting investigations.
“To ensure the public have full confidence in our police agencies, I remain committed to bringing forward legislation in the House of Assembly this year to establish a Serious Incident Response Team for Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Buckle released a statement of his own later in the day:
“Two criminal investigations have been conducted into my actions related to the Sean Kelly matter, one by the RNC, another by the OPP. A review was also conducted by the Crown Attorneys Office. I cooperated fully in each instance, providing statements and interviews after being cautioned under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In each case I was advised that I was cleared of any wrongdoing, only to learn subsequently that yet another investigation was being undertaken.
“This latest announcement by Minister of Justice, the Honourable Andrew Parsons, that the matter has been referred to NS SIRT, has left me no choice but to explore the option of a tort for malicious prosecution against Graham Watton, who prompted the repeated investigations, the RNC, and the Government of NL.
“The facts of the case that are a matter of public record, demonstrate that while I used the colloquial term “heads up”, Mr Kelly had already been contacted and advised of the investigation by the responding officer, prior to my telephone call to him. This would be the typical approach to such an investigation where evidence is preserved in digital communications. I had no intent to interfere with any criminal investigation despite the public comments to the contrary that have been part of the media coverage.
“My comments to Mr Kelly, that he ‘…had to come up with sombody who made those calls…’ were not directional but rather a challenge to his assertion that he couldn’t explain his actions.
“My subsequent involvement in this investigation identified an addition victim that had been harassed by Mr Kelly and that evidence was used in the trial as ‘similar fact evidence’ to aid in the conviction of Mr Kelly.
“I at no time intended or attempted to interfere with the criminal investigation and my involvement actually assisted in his conviction.
“I will be making no further comment at this time pending a review of my legal options.”