Nova Scotia Crown Prosecutor Lewis Pyper has announced the second-degree murder charge against a Fredericton police officer has been dropped, a rare case of restorative justice mediation in one of Canada’s most crime-ridden cities.
“Last night it became evident to me that the defence and the Crown could not reach agreement,” Pyper said Tuesday night during a news conference in Fredericton. “That’s a very common occurrence in criminal trials, not uncommon but it’s not what we’re interested in.”
Robert McAdam, 23, was arrested in February after police say he broke into a home where two children were sleeping and killed their mother, who was sleeping on the couch, and wounded the children.
But over several weeks of discussions, McAdam took part in a process that allowed him to discuss the crime, apologized and understand the proceedings.
“Mr. McAdam acknowledged to me that what he did was morally wrong and he wants to say how sorry he is that it happened. He also said he wants to apologize for the family of his victim, who was mother to his child. Mr. McAdam also stated that he deeply regrets the loss of life of his victim,” Pyper said.
Earlier Tuesday, jurors in the case were shown a photo of the pregnant mother, 33-year-old Nicole Paradis, lying on the floor of her home with her children, aged four and six, hiding under the covers in a crib.
“He had offered a reason for the terrible, terrible event that happened at her home,” Pyper said of McAdam. “He couldn’t give that reason, what he had given me was that he had been drinking heavily and couldn’t remember, then he started to recall but couldn’t remember in detail and the only thing he could remember was staying up late and waking up next to his son in his bed.”
Pyper said three separate parties involved in the case took part in the mediation process, one of them being McAdam’s wife, who was described as a co-participant in the events as well.
“There’s a significant number of people who came forward and I really applaud them for doing that,” Pyper said. “I hope that the Parole Board of Canada takes note of this and that it will continue to be a practice.”
As part of the mediation process, McAdam and his wife set up a trust fund to benefit the family.
Fredericton lawyer Brian Fox says the killing of Paradis and her children was a tragedy.
He said he was happy to have been involved in the process and would not wish that same situation on any client.
“We saw the horrible, traumatic and hurtful circumstances that all involved now understand and have taken steps to address through the annulment of the proceedings,” he said.
“The work of victim impact counselling for the Paradis family will have to be carried out by external charities.”
Rene Brazeau, an Ottawa-based violence prevention advocate, says restorative justice has a place in places like Fredericton, where recent high-profile cases prompted calls for change.
“This was taking an incredible amount of courage. It’s the same courage that Mr. Paradis was demonstrating for her children,” he said. “People want to believe in this process. But they also have to get over the idea that it’s a quick fix.”
To date, no Canadian Crown prosecutor has ever been required to drop a charge through restorative justice mediation in court, according to Camille Harris of Canada’s Justice Foundations.
But, Harris says, restorative justice advocacy is becoming more important around the world.
“This is the third major city in the province that has put such a process in place,” she said. “These cities understand that forgiveness really does exist and that it’s important for everybody involved.”
In May, a Nunavut judge sentenced a 19-year-old man to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to causing an infant to die of shock and shaken baby syndrome.
Last year, a different Nunavut court judge sentenced a man to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the death of his infant son.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.