Nova Scotia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Nova Scotia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Mistaken identity: Porn allegation dropped against Nova Scotia doctor after mix-up

Halifax police have blamed unnamed ‘partner’ agencies

In a bizarre case of mistaken identity, Halifax police blamed unnamed “partner” agencies Tuesday for providing erroneous information that led to the arrest of a local doctor who was wrongly accused of possessing child pornography.

“(Police) acted swiftly and in good faith as soon as the new information came to light,” Halifax Regional Police said in a statement Tuesday. “We recognize and regret the deeply negative impact of an unfortunate error of this nature.”

The police force said it received information from two agencies — one Canadian and one American — and its Internet Child Exploitation team executed a search warrant on Dec. 2.

Const. John MacLeod, a spokesman for Halifax police, declined to name the agencies.

Police confirmed a man was arrested, but he was not formally charged. He was released from custody on a standard undertaking to abide certain conditions.

On Jan. 22, one of the agencies involved in the case alerted investigators in Halifax that a mistake had been made about the identity of the accused, though no details were released Tuesday.

The governing body for Nova Scotia doctors confirmed police had wrongly accused Dr. David Barnett, a family doctor who works in Cole Harbour, a suburb east of Halifax. Barnett could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Gus Grant, the college’s CEO, said the Crown on Monday confirmed police had mistaken Barnett for someone with a similar nameand email address in Ohio, who has been arrested. The allegation against Barnett was dismissed in Halifax provincial court on Monday, he said.

“It’s a remarkably disturbing story,” Grant said in an interview Tuesday.

“I feel terribly sorry that this has happened to Dr. Barnett. As a college, we will do what we can to restore his good name in the profession and in the eyes of the public.”

The CEO said there is no evidence connecting the doctor with the alleged crime. When the college learned about the mix-up, it immediately convened a committee to remove an interim suspension imposed on Barnett in early December.

Grant stressed the college did not take any disciplinary action against Barnett. The interim suspension was required to ensure the safety of the public and the integrity of the medical profession, but this measure will not become part of the college’s record, he said.

“Dr. Barnett has been a victim of mistaken identity,” Grant said. “His name is entirely clear, as it should be.”

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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