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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

'Get rid of the Taser' - Halifax man calls for ban at inquiry into friend's death

Good for you, Mr. McLean!

I am very surprised to see that Taser International's lawyers are not (yet) on the list of parties who have been granted standing at this fatality inquiry. However, I expect they *will* be added in due course. I think it's fairly safe to say that a large table front and centre with at least two chairs will be needed for Taser International lawyer (and former RCMP officer) David T. Neave (of the Vancouver lawfirm "Blakes") and at least one of his legal beagles. Been there, done that.

February 18, 2009
Chronicle Herald

Philip McLean, a friend of the late Howard Hyde, came to the first day of an inquiry with one thing on his mind — a call for a complete ban on the use of Taser stun guns.

“I knew Howard and to me he wasn’t a violent person and I feel like the use of the Taser is the wrong thing for anyone in general, really I’m against it,” Mr. McLean told reporters at Halifax provincial court, where the inquiry into Mr. Hyde’s November 2007 death opened Wednesday morning.

Mr. McLean knew Mr. Hyde for two years. The two had met at a social club they both frequented.

“It’s too late to bring Howard and other people back alive, but I just hope that the Justice (Department) will get rid of the Taser.”

Mr. McLean, of Halifax, remembers his friend as a friendly and intelligent gentleman and “an all-around nice guy.”

“Unfortunately I think it can and will happen again unless the law is changed."

Mr. Hyde, 45, died on Nov. 22, 2007, some 30 hours after he was shocked with a stun gun at Halifax Regional Police headquarters.

Mr. Hyde, who had schizophrenia, died shortly after collapsing at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth. He died about 30 hours after Halifax Regional Police used a stun gun on him during a disturbance at the booking desk at police headquarters.

Mr. Hyde had been arrested and charged with assault stemming from a domestic dispute. His girlfriend, Karen Ellet, said at the time that he had stopped taking his medication.

The fatality inquiry will look at several things, including whether Mr. Hyde should have been in a hospital’s psychiatric ward as opposed to a police station and then a jail. Judge Anne Derrick, who is conducting the inquiry, will make findings and recommendations about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Hyde’s death, cause and manner of death and on anything else that may arise out of the hearings.

“I do not know the facts of this case, I will be listening to the evidence with an open mind,” Judge Derrick said. “At this point, I want to pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that we are all here this morning because of a tragic event. Howard Hyde’s death on Nov. 22, 2007 is the reason for this inquiry.

“Whatever the facts may be with respect to Mr. Hyde’s death and the events leading to it and whatever recommendations may emerge on the evidence presented here, it can be safely assumed that Mr. Hyde’s death has been a tragedy for his family and his friends, the people in his life who loved him immensely.”

The probe cannot make any findings of civil or criminal liability.

The inquiry resumes April 22. The bulk of the evidence will be heard in July and August. The inquiry was ordered in September by Justice Minister Cecil Clarke.

Cape Breton chief Crown attorney Dan MacRury has been appointed counsel for the inquiry. He has not yet determined how many witnesses he will call.

Several parties have been granted standing to participate in the inquiry. They include: Mr. Hyde’s sister and brother-in-law, Joanna Blair and her husband, Dr. Hunter Blair; the Nova Scotia General and Government Employees Union, which represents employees at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth and within the Capital district health authority; the Capital district health authority; the Canadian Mental Health Association; the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia; Attorney General of Nova Scotia; Dr. Janet MacIntyre, an emergency room physician at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre; Dr. Stephen Curry, one of the doctors who treated Mr. Hyde; and Halifax Regional Police.

Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia said because Mr. Hyde lived with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia there are many unanswered questions concerning the circumstances of his death.

“One question is why after he was taken to the emergency department and then to the court and then with instructions from the emergency department to return him if he wasn’t taken to a psychiatric facility ..., why wasn’t that done?,” Mr. Ayer said outside of court. “I have information from Ms. Ellet, his common law wife, that while he was at the correctional facility, he was examined by a psychiatric nurse why was he not examined by a psychiatrist at that particular point? So there’s some really hard questions that I would like to see answered.”

Mr. Ayer’s biggest concern is what method of restraint was used on Mr. Hyde, when and why was he restrained and was that method of restraint a factor in his death.

The province’s chief medical examiner has said being shocked with the device didn’t kill Mr. Hyde. His death was ruled accidental.

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