RNC chief defends Singleton

New deputy chief involved with botched murder cases

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on June 24, 2010
RNC Chief Bob Johnston

The justice system failed Greg Parsons, but newly appointed deputy chief Ab Singleton wasn't the sole reason for the failure, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Bob Johnston insisted Wednesday.

"The wrongful conviction of Greg Parsons was a miscarriage of justice," Johnston said, adding the force has learned from it, beefed up training and radically changed the way it conducts investigations.

The justice system failed Greg Parsons, but newly appointed deputy chief Ab Singleton wasn't the sole reason for the failure, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Bob Johnston insisted Wednesday.

"The wrongful conviction of Greg Parsons was a miscarriage of justice," Johnston said, adding the force has learned from it, beefed up training and radically changed the way it conducts investigations.

"The RNC played a role as did others in the wrongful conviction of Greg Parsons. We have accepted our role in the wrongful conviction of Greg Parsons."

Johnston was defending the deputy chief appointment for Singleton, who was the lead investigator in the Catherine Carroll murder case.

"Some of the criticism is not correct in terms of what they are saying in terms of Ab Singleton's involvement in the wrongful convictions or that he was solely responsible, or the suggestion he may have been dishonest," Johntson said.

"There is no question that he is the lead investigator in relation to the first investigation ... that led to the arrest of Greg Parsons. But he took advice from investigators, forensic experts, lawyers."

Johnston, the lead on the second investigation into the Carroll murder that exonerated her son Parsons, said Singleton is a top-notch candidate for deputy chief.

"It was the right decision, there's no question. I am pleased with the appointment. I know he will do an exceptional job. And I guess we will see what happens in relation to any protest or online campaign," Johnston said at RNC headquarters.

Singleton was also involved in the investigation that resulted in the wrongful conviction of Randy Druken in the murder of his girlfriend.

Parsons and Druken have publicly criticized Singleton's promotion.

Both cases were a key part of the Lamer Inquiry into wrongful convictions in this province. Its report was released in 2006.

"And if anybody would take the time to review that report, there's no question that Ab Singleton made mistakes as did others in the investigation. But there was no malice on his part," Johnson said Wednesday.

"There was no corruption. ... One thing that needs to be understood here is that was 19 years ago. Since then Ab Singleton worked tirelessly and advocated to ensure policing excellence."

Commissioner Antonio Lamer faulted many aspects of the justice system including the investigation.

"Parsons' case became a runaway train, fuelled by tunnel vision and a noble cause, and picking up many passengers along the way," Lamer's report concluded.

"The investigative team lacked training and experience. But most of all, it lacked objective critical analysis through leadership. It was a ship adrift ... (and thus) extremely vulnerable to tunnel vision."

Parsons was wrongfully convicted of killing his mother in 1994.

He was finally exonerated in 1998 when DNA found at the scene didn't match his. Parsons' childhood friend, Brian Doyle, was sentenced to life with no eligibility for parole for 18 years in 2003.

Druken was a small-time criminal when he was charged and later convicted of murder in the brutal stabbing death of his 26-year-old girlfriend, Brenda Young, June 12, 1993.

He served more than six years of a life sentence before DNA evidence, and the recanting of testimony by one of the Crown's key witnesses, set him free in August 2000.

It has been suggested in media reports the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted will mount an online campaign against Singleton's appointment.

Parsons declined comment Wednesday and no one was available from the association.

Parsons, now a firefighter, told the Lamer Inquiry he was the tapped from the get-go.

"The whole premise of the justice system is that you're innocent until proven guilty, but from Day 1 I was guilty until proven innocent," he testified.

"From the day I found my mother, 3 p.m. that day (RNC Insp.) Ab Singleton pulled me in, I was the prime suspect back then. I'm not a stupid man and I never had much dealings with the police, but you don't have to be a brain surgeon to know what they're getting at with the attitude and questions. 'Why are you asking me did I get along with my mother?' As soon as they asked that, I knew there was something up." Singleton was appointed deputy chief last week along with Bill Janes.

Johnson said Singleton is not only well respected in the department, but has been lauded as a community volunteer, including two-time recipient of citizen of the year.

Johnson said there were several candidates considered for deputy chief.

"I wouldn't appoint anybody unless they were top candidates," he said.

Singleton is in charge of patrol operations, operational support and the Labrador and Corner Brook operations.

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