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Coroner's Inquests and Commission of Inquiries

Under the Coroners Act, the Office of the Chief Coroner conducts inquests where a jury of five public members with a Presiding Officer explore the circumstances of certain deaths and potentially provide recommendations in effort to reduce further deaths. Pursuant to section 25(4) of the Coroners Act the Chief Coroner may direct a lawyer or a retired judge to hold an inquest if the Chief Coroner is of the opinion that the procedural or legal issues raised or likely to be raised by the inquest warrant it.

Selwyn has been working on death-in-custody cases since his days as an articling student and throughout his career as a lawyer.

1) In 2004, as an Articling Student to Lawyer Charles C. Roach (now deceased) Selwyn assisted him in his work before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda defending Hutu journalist Mathieu Ngirumpatse against human rights abuse charges in the mass genocide in Rwanda, East Africa.
2) Selwyn's first Inquest as a lawyer was the Topey inquest in 2005. Topey Inquest involved a young man who died in custody of a rare medical condition. Selwyn's most recent completed Inquest related to the police shooting death of Andrew Loku in July 2017. The skills in relation to death investigations, presenting before a Coroner's Jury, team-work, crafting verdicts and recommendations, was ably demonstrated in the Andrew Loku Inquest, where use of force, mental health challenges and race was front and centre of the Jury's recommendation. See, Loku, Re 2017 CarswellOnt 10003 and Loku, Re 2017 CarswellOnt 10004. See also Wendy Gillis "Final Witness Prompts Debate over Racism at Andrew Loku Inquest" Toronto Star. June 20, 2017 ; Shahzad, Ramna "Expert Psychiatrist Testifies on Institutional Racism at Andrew Loku Inquest" CBC News, June 20, 2017 .
3) Selwyn participated in the pre-hearing phase of the Inquest into the death of Marc EKAMBA, including meetings with the Presiding Inquest Officer, Coroner's Counsel, the Investigator and parties to discuss scope of the Inquest, proposed witnesses, level of involvement of public interest parties and standing applications. See, Ekamba, Re 2020 CarswellOnt 815 and Ekamba, Re 2019 CarswellOnt 9640.
4) In October 2012, Selwyn was Co-Counsel for the family of three deceased persons in Guyana on a Commission of Inquiry set up to “Inquire into and report on the circumstances surrounding the shooting to death of Ivan Lewis, Ron Somerset and Shemroy Bouyea and the injury of several other persons on the 18th July, 2012 at the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge.” This case involving multiple police officers with three victims and complex legal issues.
5) In March 2016, Selwyn was sole counsel for the Guyana Prison Service in the Commission of Inquiry into Disturbance and Fires at the Georgetown Prison that resulted in the death of 17 persons in Guyana, South America. This was a case involving multiple correctional officers and police officers with multiple victims, and complex legal issues sometimes involving international law, constitutional issues public law and criminal law.

Selwyn also sought standing on behalf of a public interest group in the Inquest into the Death of Dwight Haughton, Otto Vass, and most recently he has also sought standing on behalf of a public interest group in the matter of the inquest of Jeffrey Reodica, a Fillipino youth, who was shot dead by the police during a racially charged confrontation with a group of white youths.

In January 2021, Selwyn was appointed as one of ten Ontario lawyer Presiding Inquest Officers. The appointment comes on the heels of a legislative change to the Coroners Act that allows a lawyer to preside at a Coroners Inquest.

Responsibilities of presiding inquest officers may include but are not limited to:
-Leading an inquest team consisting of inquest counsel, inquest investigator, and inquest constable;
-Working with the inquest team to determine the scope of issues to be addressed at the inquest and the evidence that will be received;
-Working with interested parties to appreciate the issues identified during the investigation of the death;
-Making legally valid and fair decisions on various matters, including evidentiary questions and requests for standing;
-Where appropriate, working with the parties and counsel to resolve issues in an informal collaborative manner;
-Ensuring that the scope of the inquest is maintained throughout the hearing and that information presented to the jury is high-quality, balanced and fact-based;
-Identify issues that might raise broader and systemic concerns;
-Ensuring that the Inquest Unit is apprised of the status of the inquest and appropriately briefed on sensitive and contentious issues;
-Ensuring that jury recommendations are properly formulated, evidence-based and within the scope of the hearing;
-Writing verdict explanations;
-Available to preside at a minimum of 20 inquest hearing days annually;

Selwyn has taken several continued educational courses including:

-The 2nd Annual Belize Forensic Science Symposium (Online Event)
-5th Annual Caribbean Medicolegal and Forensic Symposium Online Event
-Deaths in Custody 3: Judicial Considerations
-Deaths in Custody 2: International Case Studies
-Deaths in Custody 1: A Comprehensive International Conversation

Selwyn A. Pieters - Barrister & Solicitor; 2021 All rights reserved.