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New judge requested to complete report on Desmond inquiry

By Joe Thomson Jul 4, 2023 | 3:30 PM

Wesley Tingey / Unsplash

Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Brad Johns has asked the chief Judge to appoint a new judge to finish the Desmond Inquiry, now that the judge who was previously handling it has retired.

Judge Warren Zimmer had been leading the inquiry into the deaths of members of the Desmond family for the past five years. He is a retired part-time judge had his term as lead judge in the inquiry extended four times over the last 18 months to allow him time to complete his report. The final extension expired on June 30.

The request is being made under Section 38 of the Fatality Investigations Act, which allows for the chief judge to appoint a new judge when the presiding judge retires or is no longer able to complete the inquiry.

“Judge Zimmer’s term has come to an end. I wish him well in his retirement,” said Minister Johns in a press release. “The family and loved ones of the Desmond family, their community, as well as all Nova Scotians, have been waiting more than five years for answers. I have requested that the Chief Judge of the provincial court appoint another judge to step in and complete the report in a timely manner.”

On January 3, 2017, Afghanistan war veteran Lionel Desmond killed his mother, wife, daughter, and himself in Upper Big Tracadie, sending shockwaves through the local community, province, and country.

Premier Tim Houston spoke recently about the government’s commitment to getting the report completed as soon as possible.

“How many times do you say ‘another extension, another extension, another extension,’ before you need to accept the reality that maybe you need to take another course to get it finished? So we wish Justice Zimmer, but our interest is in getting a completed report, and that’s why we took the actions,” said Houston.

He also said that a new judge would not have to complete an entirely new report but could pick up where Judge Zimmer left off.


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