Nova Scotia inquiry recommends CEWs used only as “last resort”
The final report of an 11-month inquiry into the death of Howard Hyde, a Nova Scotian man with schizophrenia who was experiencing a mental health crisis when he died in the custody of a correctional facility following a struggle with corrections officers, has been released.
The inquiry findings state that the restraint techniques used by the corrections officers played a role in the accidental death of Hyde. However, although Hyde was repeatedly struck by a conducted energy weapon (CEW) (commonly referred to as a Taser or stun gun) by the police up to five times during a struggle the previous day, the inquiry found that the use of the CEW did not cause Hyde’s death. The report also states that Hyde did not die from excited delirium, a potentially fatal state of extreme mental and physiological excitement that has been linked to many CEW-associated deaths, although no conclusive evidence of the link exists.
The report offers 80 recommendations. Notably, recommendation 29 states, “Conducted energy weapons should not be applied to persons in a state of agitation due to an emotional or psychological disturbance except as a last resort once it has been determined that crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques have not been effective.” Other recommendations include developing a mental health strategy for the province of Nova Scotia, establishing an inter-departmental committee (justice and health) to address justice/mental health issues, implementing diversion programs (including pre-charge diversion for mentally disordered accused), and significantly increasing funding for mental health services across the province, especially community-based mental health services.
See “Report of the Fatality Inquiry into the Death of Howard Hyde,” November 30, 2010, available at www.courts.ns.ca. See also “Howard Hyde’s Death Caused by Struggle with Jail Guard, Inquiry Report Says,” Canadian Press, December 8, 2010, available at www.canadaeast.com.
See also “Conducted Energy Weapons (Tasers),” Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario, June 2008, available atwww.ontario.cmha.ca/policy.