Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sinclair death not criminal, Crown says

No charges in HSC tragedy

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What happened to Brian Sinclair, a double amputee with a bladder infection, at Health Sciences Centre in 2008 was not a criminal act, Winnipeg police said Tuesday.

The 45-year-old died after waiting 34 hours at the emergency room. He received no care for his infection, which was easily treatable.

Police said Tuesday no criminal charges will be laid against any health-care worker who dealt with Sinclair during those 34 hours.

"The Crown opinion indicates that charges are not warranted in this matter," Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill said.

A senior Crown attorney from Saskatchewan reviewed thousands of documents in the case, as well as video recordings, video statements, written statements and other documents. He decided criminal charges aren't warranted.

Det.-Sgt. John O'Donovan said about 16 to 20 officers were involved in the investigation and 170 witnesses were interviewed.

"There were only several people (who) had contact with Mr. Sinclair, and these were the people that the Crown had to scrutinize what they did or what their involvement was," he said.

Charges such as failing to provide the necessities of life were contemplated, he said, but ultimately it was determined no charges should be laid.

"The reason that this had to go to a Crown (prosecutor) is because it's such a unique investigation.

"We'd never done anything like this before and we had nothing in Canada that we could compare it to," said O'Donovan, who said the investigation spanned "uncharted waters."

The decision paves the way for a provincial inquest into Sinclair's death.

Police didn't provide the details of the investigation but said they'll become clear during the inquest.

Vilko Zbogar, the Toronto lawyer for the Sinclair family, said the decision is "unfortunate."

"Obviously... it's not the result that the family was hoping for," said Zbogar.

"They want to get to the bottom of what happened, find the truth, they want to hold those responsible for ignoring Brian Sinclair to death accountable, and they want to make changes to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again. Now, this unfortunately, won't achieve any of those objectives."

Zbogar hadn't yet spoken with Robert Sinclair, a cousin of Brian Sinclair who acts as the family spokesman.

The family has filed $1.6-million lawsuit in relation to Sinclair's death that Zbogar said is "tied up in some preliminary motions."

Zbogar said the family doesn't know the reasons behind the decision not to lay criminal charges.

"That's unfortunate in a case of this public importance. We think the public should be entitled to know the reasons why such an important decision was made, as a matter of transparency and accountability," said Zbogar.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority issued a statement saying it's "pleased" the independent review is finished.

"This will now allow the inquest to proceed in a timely manner," said the statement.

"Mr. Sinclair's death in September 2008 was a tragedy that could have been prevented. For that, we have apologized to his family. While mistakes were made and opportunities missed, no one intended to harm Mr. Sinclair.

"A number of changes were immediately implemented to improve safety and procedures in emergency department waiting rooms at HSC and other EDs in Winnipeg.

"We are now looking forward to the start of the inquest and to receiving its recommendations," the statement said.


-- with files from Kristy Hoffman

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2012 A3

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