Defense lawyer in Nathaniel McLellan manslaughter case requests more time to review delayed disclosure materials

The defense lawyer in the Nathaniel McLellan manslaughter case has received “large quantities of disclosure” from the London crown attorney’s office and has asked for a month to review it, a London court heard Thursday. The crown’s office was to have provided the material months ago, court has heard.

Lawyer Jenny Prosser, appearing via Zoom at a court hearing on behalf of client Meggin Van Hoof, said that just before the Thursday morning hearing agreed she finally received a batch of disclosure, including video statements and “expert reports” sent to her office by the London crown’s office. These relate to an extensive Ontario Provincial Police investigation into the death of 15-month-old Nathaniel in October 2015.

“There’s a lot to go through. I have started chipping away at it, but I am going to need a bit more time,” Prosser told court. The crown on the case, Jeremy Carnegie, has yet to appear in court on this case. Prosser said she is hoping to arrange a meeting.

The matter will come back to London court on March 31 to set a date for a judicial pretrial.

“Miss Van Hoof is certainly anxious to move this matter forward,” Prosser told court.

Van Hoof, 42, of Strathroy, was charged June 23, 2021, with a manslaughter in Nathaniel’s 2015 death. A Toronto Star series, Death in a Small Town, delved into the mysterious case of the 15-month-old. Van Hoof was arrested one week after the series was published. Van Hoof ran a home daycare in Strathroy and was looking after Nathaniel the day he collapsed.

On Oct. 27, 2015, as the Star series detailed, Van Hoof called Rose-Anne McLellan, Nathaniel’s mother, to tell her the child was in distress. Rose-Anne picked her son up and rushed him to hospital in London where doctors determined he had a fracture in the back of his skull. Nathaniel was declared brain-dead and removed from life support on Oct. 31, 2015. As part of its comprehensive coverage of the case, the Star published a video detailing the timeline of events. As the Star series detailed, the Strathroy Caradoc police and the OPP initially focused on Nathaniel’s parents as suspects.

Since Van Hoof was charged there have been several delays in moving the matter forward — all because the police and crown failed to provide disclosure to Van Hoof’s lawyers.

In a criminal case, the police and Crown must disclose to the defense everything they intend to rely on in their prosecution. The police collect the evidence, pass it to the Crown for review, and then it is “disclosed” to the lawyers for the accused. In this case, portions of the evidence were handed over within a few months, but the majority was not until Thursday.

As the Star’s series detailed, there were numerous medical reports provided to police in the initial stages of the investigation. These dealt with the extent of the injuries to Nathaniel, with doctors providing expert commentary on when the injuries likely happened. There was also a report done by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children much later in the investigation, at the request of a new investigator at the OPP who took over the case. These reports, along with video and audio statements police took during the protracted probe (including statements by Nathaniel’s parents, their children de él, Van Hoof and others) are among the information collected by police, which must then be passed on to defense counsel.

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