Sinclair Inquest: (un)Moving pictures

Just a quick update to the missing hospital camera footage situation, which raised a lot of eyebrows and questions.

While my other duties have prevented me from delving further into this myself, many have stepped forward through social media and other means to offer greater details.

First, I’d submit the following Twitter posts from Steve Lambert at The Canadian Press, a colleague of astonishing awesomeness:

[They need to be read in reverse order].

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So, in this instance, there’s a legitimate reason for the missing footage: with the camera zoomed in, and nothing moving, there was nothing to film over the five-minute period. [Although why the camera was zoomed in to this degree is an outstanding question].

We then have colleague Bruce Owen’s short piece this morning on an outside expert’s view of the HSC’s “recording on event” camera system, further corroborating the HSC’s position the missing video is “normal” in the circumstances.

If it’s the case, two of the three questions I asked in my last post appear to be answered to some degree.

The other: how the cop probing the case for a year didn’t notice the missing footage until he was told about it this week, remains to be answered.

I’m still left wondering why the camera didn’t pick up a rush of activity around the ER when staff finally approached to check on him.

Again, quoting CBC:

“The inquest heard a security guard realized Sinclair was not breathing and took him to get help. He was pronounced dead at 12:51 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2008. The security camera footage is missing from 12:47 a.m. to about 12:53 a.m.”

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I wear no tin-foil hat. But it just boggles that in this case such a key portion of a major piece of evidence the inquest has to work with isn’t there.

We’re often told of the objective value of surveillance cameras in public-safety scenarios, how they “don’t lie” and provide a neutral view of what took place [such as the murder of Gerald Crayford at the Pizza Hotline.]

But here ….

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Sinclair Inquest: Missing ER footage stretches logic

130806 sinclair03.JPGMaybe it’s the residual skepticism in me over the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry debacle surrounding  missing and/or shredded supervisor’s notes from the murdered little girl’s CFS involvement.

But when I read tonight that six minutes of security cam footage from the HSC ER are missing — at the precise time Brian Sinclair was discovered dead — a wave of awfulness came upon me.

Read this CBC Manitoba story here.  Pay careful attention to how the headline says HSC officials “explain” missing footage at Sinclair inquest.

Here’s the CBC fact box in full, emphasis mine.

Missing footage

On Tuesday, the inquest heard six minutes of tape from the emergency room at the Health Sciences Centre, where Sinclair died, was missing from evidence. The six minutes were the precise time staff realized Sinclair was dead. That revelation was made by the Sinclair family’s lawyer. The officer in charge or reviewing the footage said he had not previously noticed the five minutes were missing until the lawyer pointed it out.

The inquest heard a security guard realized Sinclair was not breathing and took him to get help. He was pronounced dead at 12:51 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2008. The security camera footage is missing from 12:47 a.m. to about 12:53 a.m.

In testimony heard later in the afternoon, Norman Schatz, the co-ordinator of investigations and staff development for HSC, told the inquest the cameras activate via a motion sensor. He said he “assumed there was no motion during those six minutes.”

However, right before the camera cuts off and when it resumes taping, motion can be seen in the corners of the frame. (Again, credit to the CBC for this)

This raises many profoundly disturbing questions to me. Here’s just two  three small things to think about.

1] Consider the ‘lack of motion’ aspect — in the ER of ostensibly Manitoba’s busiest 24-hour hospital early on a cool, but pleasant early 10C Sunday morning in the fall . Am I supposed to really believe that for six minutes, nothing moved in that room to trigger the cameras? ( I wonder what the 911 call log looks like around that time? It was Saturday night just before Sinclair died waiting for care, after all, and we all know Winnipeg on a Saturday night). 

2] A Winnipeg cop, a veteran investigator who worked homicides and was seconded to conduct the police investigation into Sinclair’s death, testified he spent roughly 500 hours (That’s 20.83 full days of life) reviewing the footage from the ER but didn’t notice the missing 5-6 minutes until the lawyer for the Sinclair family advised him of it in court today. He investigated the case for a year. No charges ever came of his findings, which the public will never know much about anyway.

3] [Added at 9:46 p.m. after original posting] It’s interesting how in the above CBC text, the HSC co-ordinator of investigations is directly quoted as saying he “assumed” there was no motion, hence no footage of around the time Sinclair died. That “assumed” word gives me pause. Didn’t the HSC investigations co-ordinator review the whole tape?

I’ve read multiple media accounts of today’s inquest proceedings. They all basically say the same thing.

But the one question not really being asked is this: Is it remotely credible that innocently, in one of Manitoba’s most concerning health-care related cases ever — one everyone’s had years to prepare for the onslaught of scrutiny this inquest would bring — that there’s missing camera footage, or missing documents? [More missing stuff here].

Again, maybe it’s just Phoenix and the gaps in logic and process seen there coming back to rattle me.

But I just can’t accept this. It really, really troubles me.

It should trouble you too.

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EDIT: 8:55 p.m. to clarify lead sentence somewhat.

EDIT 9:45 p.m. to add third question.

REDHEAD INQUEST: The Joyal decision in full

(Jaylene Sanderson-Redhead)
(Jaylene Sanderson-Redhead)

In recent months, the Redhead inquiry was dealing with a request by Awasis CFS  to have inquest Judge Larry Allen kicked off the case due to how he handled a social work witness.

Links: Here and here  With the position of my bosses at SunMedia on this important case here.

The agency’s bid — supported by the Northern Authority — went before Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal and was shot down.

Here’s Joyal’s written decision for the fullness of the record: