The Burnside jail. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Five prisoners at the Burnside jail have filed habeas corpus applications with the Supreme Court. The applications arrived at the courthouse yesterday, September 5.

Kaz Cox, Matthew Grimm, Maurice Pratt, Steven Skinner, and Leonard Greenough each say they are wrongfully being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. It’s unclear if any of the five are aware of the others’ applications.

A sense of the prisoners’s conditions is relayed by their hand-written applications.

“I have committed no rule infraction and have been locked in my cell since September 1, 2018,” writes Kaz Cox. “I have only received half hour per day of fresh air. I have been given no information as to why I am being held in lockdown. I have had my light on from 8am – 12am and a high beam flashlight shined in my face every half hour between 12am and 8am, depriving me of sleep. I am feeling as if I am being tortured while awaiting trial.”

“Repeatedly we are locked down for another person’s actions,” writes Grimm. “They claim it is a security risk [but there is] no basis to that argument. Consistently they do the same kind of lock downs where we go multiple days without getting our full rights.”

Cox, Greenough, and Skinner are on remand, meaning they have not been tried for the charges that brought them to jail. It’s not clear from their applications what Grimm’s or Pratt’s status is.

Leonard Greenough

Greenough is the only one of the five who has la lawyer; he is represented by Zeb Brown of Kentville. Brown did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According the the habeas application Brown filed on Greenough’s behalf, Greenough was arrested on March 16.

The Register / Advertiser reported in March:

Leonard Wade Greenough, 24, and William Brian Farrow, 29, have both been charged with two counts of break and enter, two counts of theft under $5,000, two counts of possessing property obtained by crime, and single counts of possessing a break-in instrument and unauthorized possession of a firearm.

The charges stem from incidents alleged to have occurred in Windsor on Jan. 29, Feb. 22, Feb. 26, March 1 and March 6.

It is alleged the men took a donation box with change in it from a Tim Hortons location in Windsor Jan. 29, stole a firearm during a break-in at a home on Underwood Drive March 1, and broke into the Windsor Hantsport Railway Inc. Property on Water Street Feb. 22, the same place the pair is accused of later stealing scrap metal from on Feb. 26.

Greenough is also in court on one charge of knowingly transferring a non-restricted firearm without authorization.

After his arrest, “[Greenough] was denied interim release following a show cause hearing and remanded into custody to await trial,” writes Brown.

But that trial has been repeatedly delayed, alleges Brown. The first potential trial dates, May 14-17, were missed because the Crown said it needed more time to investigate. The trial was then scheduled for July 16-18, but on the first day of that trial, July 16, the trial was adjourned “due to incomplete Crown disclosure,” writes Brown. The trial has been rescheduled for November 19 and 20.

When a prisoner is held awaiting trial for more than 90 days, writes Brown, the person holding him “must apply forthwith to a judge to determine if the Applicant [Greenough] should be released from custody.” This is called a “Retention Review.”

Greenough’s experienced his 90th day in jail on June 5. Before that time, he was imprisoned in the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Pictou; on June 29, he was transferred to Burnside. Neither jailed made the required Detention Review application to the court, writes Brown.

Greenough has a “realistic prospect of being released” at the Detention Review stage, writes Brown, because:

a. His trial has been unreasonably delayed from May to November due to avoidable disclosure issues, which is a factor that may be considered in a Detention Review. Essentially all of the disclosure, which was produced to defence in multiple waves from March to August, could have been produced by April 2018.

b. The extended period of remand until trial, more than eight months, exceeds what would normally have been within the contemplation of the bail judge and creates particular hardship for the Applicant. He is a young man with no adult criminal record and just a few dated youth offences; [medical condition omitted by the Examiner]; he has incurred no discipline while in custody, and yet he has been assaulted and kept for extended periods in 23-hour lockdown cells.

c. The case against the Applicant is not strong, at least in respect of the most serious charges. The Crown case depends heavily upon the statement of William Farrow, a drifter who was sleeping on the Applicant’s couch after being released from jail. Mr. Farrow was charged as a co-accused and has 66 prior convictions, many involving similar offences. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a subset of the charges and was sentenced pursuant to a joint submission.

d. The Applicant has been able to organize a much better release plan than what was proposed to the bail judge, including a surety, employment, and residence away from the Windsor area.

Steven Skinner

Skinner is also on remand, charged with the 2011 murder of Stacey Adams in Lake Echo. After Adams was killed, Skinner fled to Venezuela, where he was arrested in 2016; his trial is scheduled for September 2019.

In his application, Skinner says he is “being held in segregation intentionally.”

“The detention is illegal because there has been no reason given why the applicant is said to pose a risk to the safety to himself or any other inmates,” he writes. “The applicant was told he was being held in segregation indefinitely because there is ‘information’ [unreadable] staff to believe that the applicant is ‘influencing others to do things they would not normally do.’ No further details will be disclosed to the applicant. The applicant has asked for additional information and was refused it. No further explanation will be given [several words failed to copy onto the court file] indefinite.”

Skinner’s habeas application arrived at the courthouse yesterday; this morning, Duane Eddy, the lawyer representing the Burnside jail, entered the following letter into the court file:

Stephen Skinner has been transferred to the Cape Breton Correctional Facility today. Please see the email below of Tracy Dominix — Deputy Superintendent of Compliance and investigations.

With respect to Mr. Skinner’s application that was filed with the court of September 5, 2018, it’s the Crown’s / Respondent’s position that the court no longer has jurisdiction to hear Mr. Skinner’s application because his grounds for habeas corpus cited in his application pertain to his confinement at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Now that Mr. Skinner is no longer housed at that facility the conditions of his confinement which gave rise to the filing of his application on September 5, 2018 no longer exit [sic].

Based on the above, I respectfully request that Mr. Skinner’s application be set aside under the circumstances.

Pursuant to Civil Procedure Rule 87.03 and 87.06(2), please forward this correspondence to his Lordship for consideration regarding my request that Mr. Skinner’s habeas corpus application be set aside.

Apparently, the jails are arguing that so long as they shift prisoners from one jail to another, prisoners can be kept in solitary confinement indefinitely.

None of the claims made in the habeas applications have been tested in court.

Supreme Court Justice James Chipman has accepted all five habeas applications, and has asked that the matters be scheduled for consideration either tomorrow or on Monday.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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