In Court

Charges Dropped against Curtis Steele

On Monday afternoon, I stepped off the elevator in Halifax Supreme Court to see Mark Knox, QC heading into a courtroom. That’s a good sign that something interesting is about to happen, so I dove into the gallery.

I was seated for about 0.63 seconds before the child pornography charges against Curtis Arlo Steele were withdrawn. Steele looks just like any other nice old man, and was accompanied by two confident-looking older women. All three were thrilled with the result.

CBC’s Blair Rhodes was there earlier to witness a different scene: he describes the complainant being “visibly shaken when she saw the accused walk into the waiting area outside the courtroom.” She chose not to testify.

Any woman who has been at the centre of a complaint of that nature knows the feeling. My heart goes out to a woman who reported, who spoke to police and lawyers, and who showed up.

Codey Hennigar Not Criminally Responsible for Family Murder

Justice Patrick Murray ruled Tuesday morning that Codey Hennigar was not criminally responsible in the murder of his mother, Ann Ward, and her parents Ida Ward and Bill Ward. It felt like everyone was there to watch, including the CBC, Global News, and of course Steve Bruce for Local Xpress.

Bruce’s is the only piece to refer to a moment where a woman stood and said to the Court, “The system has failed this family.” I had to leave early, and I am dying to know which of the concerned, careful faces I observed in the gallery was the one who spoke up.

Law nerds will appreciate the procedural novelty in “NCR” (not criminally responsible) cases: the Crown and defence proceed quite collaboratively compared to most criminal issues. From what I’ve seen and read in my limited experience, it’s not something that’s raised as a hail-mary pass from the defence table like you see on TV.

The lead Crown in this case, Mark Heerema, is a well-known name in mental health law, having co-authored a leading text on mental health courts. Defence counsel Malcolm Jeffcock practices mental health law — rarely a lucrative area of practice — and has been involved in several prominent NCR cases like Bese v British Columbia (Forensic Psychiatric Institute).

If only Hennigar had been surrounded by similarly prominent medical experts while his schizophrenia was intensifying. “The system failed this family” — a compelling thought.

George Hubley Trial Begins

George Edward Hubley is charged with accessory to murder after the fact and interfering with human remains in relation to the murder of Catherine “Catie” Miller in July 2014.

On Tuesday morning, the Crown was still making its way through masses of recorded phone calls and text messages between Hubley and Kelly Amanda MacDonald. MacDonald is one of two others charged in relation to Miller’s murder. According to court documents, MacDonald and Jason James Johnson pleaded guilty to second degree murder and to interfering with human remains before the commencement of this trial. Each was sentenced to life — without parole for 20 years for Johnson and without parole for 16 years for MacDonald.

Police got a warrant to listen in on Hubley’s and MacDonald’s calls and texts beginning in October 2014. The pair are heard discussing Thanksgiving dinners and domestic details, and MacDonald’s baby is often heard in the background. They chat about the realities of poor rural living, such as the costs of texts and calls on pay-as-you-go phones and doing work on neighbours’ houses. They are also heard discussing visits from police investigating the missing Miller, not knowing the extent to which they were already suspects. They get their stories straight on important facts. These calls surely will be relevant in determining Hubley’s state of mind.

Hubley’s trial is scheduled for three weeks.

Docket Highlights

Halifax Supreme Court Docket:

Pre-trial hearings in William Michael Sandeson continue this week. That’s literally all I can tell you due to the publication ban, but it’s open court if you want to go watch yourself.

A case I worked on at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service, Nova Scotia (Department of Community Services) v Assistance Appeal Board, is in court on Thursday morning for preliminary applications. The Examiner covered this case in September, when the Department filed its appeal of an Income Assistance Appeal Board decision that granted an increased housing allowance to a woman with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. We’ll be watching that case closely as it unfolds.

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  1. Worth mentioning that Curtis Steele is the former psychiatrist who had his licence revoked (or rather gave it up permanently before it was revoked) for taking nude photos of adolescent patients.

    1. I mean, yes? I linked to outside coverage that mentions that. I make no attempt to duplicate CBC. Also, it was only one patient that was involved in both this case and the complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.