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Privacy case against North Bay nurse quietly dropped

North BayNORTH BAY, Ont. – The first person ever prosecuted under Ontario’s health privacy law for allegedly prying into almost 6,000 patient records no longer faces charges because of the “curious” way the Crown handled the case, a court has ruled.

Against a backdrop of growing calls for more prosecutions under this law, the potentially precedent-setting case was quietly dropped because of a 16-month delay “entirely attributable” to Crown prosecutors, according to the court ruling.

The Toronto Star reported that North Bay Health Centre nurse Melissa McLellan was accused of inappropriately accessing 5,804 patient records, including information about overdoses, suicide attempts, marriage issues and psychotic episodes.

If found guilty, McLellan would have been the first individual convicted under the 2004 Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) – but she no longer faces a trial or the possible $50,000 fine.

Justice of the Peace Lauren Scully stayed the case in January – effectively dismissing it – because she said the Crown’s “extensive late disclosure” of evidence and “controversial, curious” tactics breached McLellan’s charter rights.

The Crown conceded in its submissions that it had faced many “hiccups” throughout the case. “The Crown said the situation was not ideal and this was the first prosecution of its kind resulting in a steep learning curve by everyone involved,” Scully’s decision said.

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