Lawyer Kevin Egan Speaks Out About the Issues at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre

In the Spring of 2009, an inmate from Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre arrived for a court appearance at the London Court House. Staff there immediately recognized there was something wrong.  He was disoriented to time and place and his speech was incoherent. An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital where it was discovered he had a bleed on his brain as a result of blunt force trauma. He died the next day. The official word at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre was that Randy Drysdale had slipped and fallen in the shower and had hit his head, causing the brain bleed.

A mandatory inquest was called but didn’t convene for more than 2 years after Randy’s death. Randy Drysdale’s mother and siblings retained Kevin Egan to represent them. Five different lawyers represented various parties at the inquest.  Evidence emerged about an over-crowded, poorly designed, unsanitary, improperly supervised and extremely violent institution. Evidence also revealed a “con code” where, even after being beaten up, inmates are afraid to say anything because they know they will only get it worse as a result. 

Of the five lawyers participating in the inquest, most argued the cause of death was “accidental” or “unexplained”. Kevin Egan was the lone lawyer who argued homicide. There was significant evidence that Randy had been beaten by two inmates in the common area of the cell block and then dragged into the shower area where he was revived and warned to say that he had slipped and fallen. The jury agreed with Kevin Egan that Randy was the victim of homicide. At Kevin’s urging, the jury made numerous recommendations to improve supervision of inmates, including the installation of video cameras which were to be monitored in real time. Although the cameras were installed in 2013, their images are not regularly monitored in real time.

As the story emerged in the media, other inmates who had been beaten or neglected in similar fashion began to come forward to tell their stories. 

Since 2009, there have been other murders, suicides and drug overdoses at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre.  Violence continues to be a part of the culture. Kevin Egan has now been involved as a lawyer for the families of 7 different inmates who died at EMDC and for many more surviving victims of violence. There has been a great deal of media interest over the years, most notably in regard to the vicious torture and murder of Adam Kargus on Halloween night 2013, but also in regard to many other victims. Coverage has included the CBC National News, CTV National News, the Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star, Post Media, the Law Times, the Lawyers Weekly and numerous radio and print media outlets. Kevin Egan has done approximately 100 media interviews over the past 6 years in regard to the issues.

As the numbers increased to more than 60 individual lawsuits, it became evident that, in the interests of time and resources, separate trials could not possibly take place. McKenzie Lake’s class action lawyers became involved. Russel Raikes assisted Kevin in the initial draft and when Mr. Raikes was appointed as a judge of the Superior Court, Mike Peerless, Matt Baer, Bill Jenkins and Chelsea Smith provided their expertise and considerable skill in successfully certifying the first ever class action in Ontario in regard to conditions in a jail.  A further class action regarding Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre was certified in May of 2017. The class size is now approximately 13,000 inmates. 

The recent Toronto Star article published nationally this past Monday provides a broad view of the issues. 

Further, more extensive, in depth, coverage of the issues will be broadcast on CBC’s Fifth Estate this Friday, December 1, 2017 at 9:00 p.m.  It will be re-broadcast on the CBC  Newsworld channel on Saturday and Sunday, December 2 and 3, 2017.  It will also be available for viewing on the CBC website.

The Fifth Estate did extensive filming at the firm’s offices, around the City of London and at EMDC. In studio and other interviews with Kevin Egan will be a primary focus of the episode.

Much of the video from the jail will be graphic and upsetting for some viewers, but it’s an important story for the public to know about and provides some insight into McKenzie Lake’s worthwhile work.