More than two-and-a-half years after the death of bullied Nova Scotia teenager Rehtaeh Parsons, an independent review has determined that the system “failed” in dealing with the case before her death.
In November of 2011, Parsons, then 15, was at a party at which her parents said she had been sexually assaulted by four boys. A photo of the alleged assault was circulated around Parsons’ school, which is said to have been one of the contributing factors to the bullying that prompted her 2013 suicide attempt.
Police said there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with sexual assault charges.
A review into the handling of the case was done by the RCMP and Nova Scotia’s Prosecution Service, which culminated in a report released Thursday, authored by former Ontario chief prosecutor Murray Segal.
What took place on November 12, 2011, in the Eastern Passage bedroom was wrong on many levels,” Segal said in his report. “A young person’s integrity, dignity and privacy was violated in a degrading manner. A teenage girl was sexually objectified in a dehumanizing way.”
Segal didn’t disagree with the police assessment that there weren’t enough grounds for sexual assault charges, but pointed to a number of other problems in how police and the Crown handled the case.
Segal’s report, ordered by the Nova Scotia government in 2013, said that the police investigation took too long, and made 17 recommendations for future, similar cases.
One issue was that the first interview with Parsons, done by RCMP Const. Kim Murphy, took too long and was unrecorded, meaning a second interview needed to be done, despite the “negative impact” the revisiting of the issue had on Parsons.
Another issue in the case was incorrect advice issued by a Crown attorney, which deterred police from intervening in one component of the case.
The review’s release was delayed pending the legal status of two men charged in connection with the case, who have been pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and have now been sentenced.