Shooter’s spouse to testify at Nova Scotia shooting hearings

Lisa Banfield, on the advice of her lawyers, initially refused to speak under oath during the hearings

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HALIFAX — The wife of the shooter in the Nova Scotia mass shooting will testify in mid-July at a public inquest, but she won’t face direct questions from lawyers representing the victims’ families.

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The Mass Casualty Commission said in a press release Thursday that due to Lisa Banfield’s status as a « survivor of abuser’s abuse » and « in light of the information she has already provided », alone the investigation lawyer will ask him questions during his July 15 investigation. appearance.

The ruling drew criticism from lawyers representing families, who said it was the latest example of restrictions on their ability to ask witnesses questions directly on behalf of their clients.

Josh Bryson, attorney for the family of victims Peter and Joy Bond, says his clients are losing faith in the credibility of the investigation.

“Cross-examination can make or break the testimony of a witness…. You test the evidence in a meaningful, trauma-informed way,” he said in an interview Thursday.

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Michael Scott, a lawyer for a firm representing 14 of the families, said in an email that his clients were « deeply discouraged » by the commissioners’ decision to « deny our clients a meaningful opportunity to interview Lisa Banfield ».

« Our clients are not confident that commission counsel will obtain all relevant evidence from Ms. Banfield, » Scott wrote. “Today’s decision has significantly undermined the legitimacy of the process and our clients’ confidence in the independence of the commissioners.

Banfield, on the advice of her lawyers, initially refused to speak under oath during hearings into the 22 murders committed by her husband on April 18 and 19, 2020. However, she changed her position after a criminal charge was brought against her for the supply of ammunition to the killer was referred to restorative justice.

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The inquest also refused to allow cross-examination of Staff Sergeant. Brian Rehill and Master Sgt. Andy O’Brien, who were the first RCMP managers to oversee the response to the shooting. This decision led to the boycott of certain proceedings by lawyers representing some of the families.

Emily Hill, lead commission counsel, said participating attorneys can submit their questions in advance and can provide follow-up questions for inquest counsel to ask during the single day set aside to hear Banfield. . She noted that Banfield provided five unsworn interviews as well as documents for the public to view.

However, Bryson said the inquest interviews are unsworn testimony, adding that having the ability for family lawyers to test prior statements by questioning a witness under oath is crucial.

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Banfield’s evidence could provide additional insight into the killer’s personal history and state of mind and may also be key to the commission’s mandate to examine the role of gender and domestic violence in the killer’s actions.

The inquest heard she was the last person with the shooter before he was unleashed. The killer assaulted her and locked her in a car, but she managed to escape. She fled into the woods and hid before emerging the next morning and telling police the killer was driving a replica RCMP vehicle.

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RCMP said upfront that Banfield was unaware of his wife’s intentions when she provided him with ammunition before the shooting, but they laid charges alleging that she, her brother and her brother-in-law illegally transferred ammunition to the killer.

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In a briefing Thursday morning, the commission confirmed that senior RCMP officers, including Supt. Darren Campbell, Supt. Chris Leather, Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman and Commissioner Brenda Lucki will testify in July and August – under oath and subject to cross-examination.

Premier Tim Houston told reporters Thursday that he was aware of the decision not to allow cross-examination in Banfield’s case and that he understood the families’ concerns. He said he continued to believe the inquiry should put « the families’ trust at the center of it all ».

However, he did not directly criticize the investigation as he had done on the first day of its work.

« I remain confident that at the end of this there will be recommendations and information that Nova Scotians can rely on, » he said.

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