Police assumed mentally ill man would get help, death inquiry told

HALIFAX, N.S. - An inquiry into the death of a mentally ill Nova Scotia man heard Wednesday from two police officers who said they assumed Howard Hyde would receive a required psychiatric assessment once he was released into the custody of court sheriffs or correctional officers.

HALIFAX, N.S. - An inquiry into the death of a mentally ill Nova Scotia man heard Wednesday from two police officers who said they assumed Howard Hyde would receive a required psychiatric assessment once he was released into the custody of court sheriffs or correctional officers.

But the inquiry was told that never happened.

The 45-year-old musician, who was arrested on a domestic assault complaint, died in a Dartmouth jail 30 hours after he was Tasered in a struggle with officers at Halifax police headquarters on Nov. 21, 2007.

Shortly after the Tasering, Hyde collapsed and officers have said he stopped breathing. He was revived by an officer using CPR, then taken to hospital.

Const. John Haislip testified that the instructions from a doctor included on a so-called Health Information Transfer form made it clear Hyde would be released from hospital to attend court on the condition he receive a psychiatric assessment that same day.

But Haislip said he also understood that once he released Hyde into the custody of court sheriffs or correctional officers, he had not control over what happened to him.

Both he and a booking officer at the station, Special Const. Dan Fraser, told the inquiry they believed the sheriffs or jail guards would make sure Hyde received the care he needed.

"I would assume that if a doctor requests something and it goes through our system that that would happen," Haislip told Thomas Donovan, a lawyer representing Dr. Janet MacIntyre, the doctor who signed the form.

Donovan asked Haislip if there is something wrong with the system if those kind of instructions are not acted on.

"I would say that there's an issue there, yes," said Haislip.

However, Haislip admitted that he wasn't familiar with how the courts would respond when presented with such a requirement.

At one point, he testified that he didn't "have a clue" when asked if he was aware that the court could order a forensic psychiatric evaluation.





Later Wednesday, Fraser said he was confident the other branches of the justice system would follow through on the doctor's orders.

"I had not doubts that if it was a serious matter that the sheriffs could get him over there (for an assessment) or if he was sent to the correctional centre, they could arrange for that transport," he told the hearing.

The inquiry has heard that the transfer form is typically not included with the package of information given to the Crown when a prisoner appears in court.

 
 
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