On Our Radar: When will the RNC complaints commission finish the Dane Spurrell case?

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April 18, 2009
    Dane Spurrell, 18, of Mount Pearl, is arrested when two RNC officers mistake his autism for public intoxication. He was taken to the St. John’s lockup and during that time was not allowed to call home. He is shown asking to do so in the lockup video.
       A formal complaint is subsequently filed by Dane’s mother, Diane Spurrell, with the RNC Public Complaints Commission.

Diane Spurrell and her son Dane Spurrell are shown with the transcripts and other documents from the complaint over Dane’s 2009 arrest, which is still before the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission. — File photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

April 23, 2009

    Then RNC Chief Joe Browne apologizes to Dane Spurrell and his mother.

       When arrested, Spurrell had been walking home from a video store.

       Browne says the initial responding officer, who had about two years’ experience at that point, spotted Spurrell when a car swerved to avoid him on Topsail Road. According to Browne, the officer tried to speak to him, but said Spurrell was unable to communicate clearly. That’s when she made the judgment call that Browne said was the turning point in the encounter — she decided Spurrell was high on drugs. In actuality, he was exhibiting signs of autism.

       Browne announces officers will get training in responding to people with autism.


Fall 2010

    The RNC Public Complaints Commission begins discussions on the process for a hearing on the complaint.


July 2011

    Proceedings finally commence.


November 2012

    Diane Spurrell tells The Telegram she is frustrated at the length of time the complaint is taking to resolve and says she feels weighed down against the legal representation on the officers’ side.

       She says she initially decided to file the complaint after learning the results of the RNC’s internal investigation, which concluded the two officers acted in “good faith” when dealing with her son and acted in accordance with RNC


       Dane Spurrell does not have legal representation at the hearings, although his mother praises the work of the commission’s lawyer, Peter O’Flaherty. However, the hearings are consuming much of Diane Spurrell’s time.

       She said a lengthy delay was caused by the officers’ counsel requesting her son’s medical records.

       Dane Spurrell previously received a settlement from the RNC, but that was set aside for his future.


December 2012

    Hearings resume for final testimony.


September 2013

    This week, Diane Spurrell told The Telegram a date has been set for closing arguments — Oct. 23. That date was confirmed by the commission.

       “It’s been one recess after another, after another,” she said.

       If that one-day proceeding goes ahead as planned, a report from adjudicator John McGrath is expected within 90 days.

       The adjudicator can seek an extension on the 90 days, but requires agreement by all parties.



The Telegram has been following this story for 4 years and 5 months

What we want to know:

When will the RNC Public Complaints Commission conclude the matter and reach a decision?


Is there a matter of public interest you’d like addressed? Send us your question by email to telegram@thetelegram.com.

We can’t guarantee we’ll get answers, but if it’s an issue in the public domain we will certainly ask questions.

Organizations: The RNC Public Complaints Commission

Geographic location: Topsail Road

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Recent comments

  • Kelly
    September 14, 2013 - 11:34

    This process is taking far too long. Parents of children with Autism face so many struggles, fight daily battles and rejoice in even the smallest stride made. This young man was obviously mistreated by the system put in place to protect people, especially the most vulnerable. It is plain to see the errors made by the RNC. Ensure this type of situation never occurs to another individual and conclude the inquiry. Stop dragging it on and allow this family to move on with the rest of their lives.