Terms set for Desmond inquiry

HALIFAX: The fatality inquiry into the deaths of Lionel Desmond and his family will be held in Guysborough.

On January 3, 2017, the bodies of Desmond, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, his wife, 31-year-old Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and Desmond’s 52-year-old mother, Brenda, were found in a house in Upper Big Tracadie. It was later determined that Desmond took the lives of his family members, before he took his own.

On December 28, Dr. Matt Bowes, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Examiner, announced his recommendation of an inquiry into the deaths of the Desmonds.

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At the time, Dr. Bowes said various government agencies touched Lionel Desmond’s life and there were many touch points for intervention.

Dr. Bowes said in December that the real complexity in this case has been the degree to which the federal government would play a role and it is helpful they decided to cooperate since Lionel Desmond’s issues occurred under a federal mandate.

Following his review, Dr. Bowes recommended an inquiry under Section 26 of Nova Scotia’s Fatality Investigations Act. Nova Scotia’s Minister of Justice agreed and drafted the attached terms of reference outlining the scope for the inquiry.

Shanna (left) and Aaliyah Desmond

Among the terms, the inquiry will examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths, including: the circumstances of Lionel Desmond’s release from St. Martha’s Regional Hospital on January 2, 2017; whether Lionel Desmond had access to appropriate mental health services, including treatment for occupational stress injuries; whether health care and social services providers who interacted with Lionel Desmond were trained to recognize the symptoms of occupational stress injuries or domestic violence; whether Lionel Desmond should have been able to retain, or obtain a licence to purchase a firearm; and what restrictions applied to accessing the federal health records of Lionel Desmond by provincial health authorities.

The proceedings will take place in the Guysborough Municipal Building at 33 Pleasant Street in Guysborough. Among other things, the Nova Scotia Judiciary pointed out that the building was previously used as a satellite courthouse, making it easy to adapt for legal proceedings.

Considering travel and the wide public interest in this matter, it is possible the inquiry proceedings will be livestreamed on-line, the judiciary noted, adding this will need to be approved by the presiding judge.

The next step in the inquiry process will be the announcement of a Provincial Court Judge and designated Crown Counsel to conduct the inquiry. That announcement is expected in the coming weeks.