Legal expert ‘shocked’ by imprisoned Nygard’s phone privileges


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CASUAL observers aren’t the only ones wondering why fallen fashion tycoon Peter Nygard has been provided his own phone in jail while awaiting possible extradition to the United States.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/03/2021 (732 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CASUAL observers aren’t the only ones wondering why fallen fashion tycoon Peter Nygard has been provided his own phone in jail while awaiting possible extradition to the United States.

Local legal experts say they are unaware of any other case like it in Manitoba.

“I was shocked,” said University of Manitoba law professor David Ireland. “I’ve never been aware of an inmate having exclusive access to their own phone.

“Certainly, in my experience of dealing with clients in custody, I’ve never had a client who had free access to a phone.”

The Manitoba Court of Appeal is currently considering whether Nygard can be released on bail.

Nygard, 79, is being held at Headingley Correctional Centre, where, according to an affidavit provided by assistant superintendent of security Todd Schreyer, he has a cell to himself (it can accommodate three inmates), a television, and a phone he can use from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.

“No other cell at (the jail) has similar phone access,” Schreyer said in his affidavit.

“Due to Mr. Nygard’s request for constant contact with his legal team, this is the only location at which we can accommodate him and ensure his safety due to the high-profile nature of his case.”

Nygard is in protective custody and “does not mix with other inmates,” the affidavit says.

Ireland said he takes no issue with Nygard having unrestricted phone access, but the privilege, if granted, should be shared by all inmates.

“I don’t think it’s a terrible thing, but surely it has to be even,” Ireland said.

“Talk about a can of worms. What do you think every other inmate is saying right now? ‘Like, where’s my phone. Because this guy is rich he gets his own phone?’ That’s how I would be feeling if I was at Headingley.”

Ireland said everyone in jail is expected to be treated the same, regardless of whether they are on remand, a sentenced prisoner, or facing extradition. “That’s the thing about prison. It’s the great equalizer — everybody is in the same boat.”

Nygard is wanted in New York, where he would face prosecution on nine charges of sex trafficking and racketeering spanning decades.

Meanwhile, extradition can take years, and it is rare an accused facing extradition is not granted bail, said U of M law Prof. Gerard Kennedy.

While those in custody are all expected to be subject to the same treatment, “The number of cases that would fall into the not granted bail pending extradition (category) is extremely small, so we could yet hear after the fact that, ‘Oh no, it should be treated differently,’” Kennedy said.

“I can certainly understand why this would raise eyebrows, concerning equitable treatment of those held in custody depending on their pre-existing privilege,” he said. “We don’t know that’s the case, but it’s not a great look.”

A Manitoba Justice spokesperson provided little insight into the decision to provide Nygard a phone, saying only “Inmates are placed in units based on their individual health, security assessment and program needs.”

According to a Manitoba Justice fact sheet, provincial inmates are allowed to use jail phones to make unlimited calls to lawyers or community supports between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. each day. Non-sentenced inmates can make three personal calls each day, up to 15 minutes each.

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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