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RCMP Names Murder Suspect at Community Meeting

The head of a community group invited an RCMP staff sergeant to discuss a decade-old murder case at a meeting and to specifically address why the name of a member of the community kept coming up in talk about the murder.

The sergeant said he would discuss that particular man only if he were present. The head of the group assured him this would not be a problem. The talked-about man had been present at a recent group meeting, where it had been agreed to invite the RCMP to discuss the cold case investigation.

The sergeant had no contact with the man until both attended the meeting. During a discussion about the cold case, the sergeant said the man was a "person of interest" and had declined to submit to a polygraph test.

The man commented that he had Charter rights. Another member attacked him for not co-operating.

The man complained to our Office that the RCMP sergeant inappropriately disclosed the fact he was a suspect in the murder investigation at the meeting. He said he had been advised that he would be discussed at the meeting, but had not been advised of the subject matter.

The evidence indicates that the sergeant presumed that the complainant had consented to the discussion, because of the complainant's attendance at the meeting and assurances from representatives of the group that the complainant was aware of, and had not objected to, the proposed discussion.

While it is commendable that the sergeant was being responsive to the interests of the community, the onus was on the RCMP to actively obtain consent, rather than presuming it. The onus was not on the complainant to object to a disclosure of his personal information.

We upheld the complaint as well founded.

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