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Canada College warns psychiatrist over jailhouse interview

An Ontario psychiatrist was reprimanded yesterday by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons for potentially confusing an accused murderer over whether he was a friend or foe.

The governing body said it was "profoundly concerned" about Angus McDonald's conduct during a jailhouse interview with a high-profile murder defendant conducted shortly after the man's arrest.

The accused man, Allen MacDonald, was charged on May 31, 1997, after an off-duty police officer, Thomas Coffin, was shot in a Penetanguishene bar.

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Dr. McDonald, a frequent witness in Ontario courtrooms, interviewed the defendant on behalf of the Crown two days later, in Barrie Jail.

The interview was excluded at Mr. MacDonald's trial. The trial judge ruled that Dr. McDonald had failed to explain that he was at the jail to assess Mr. MacDonald's mental condition, and that anything the accused murderer said could later be used against him.

Mr. MacDonald was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

After learning of the incident, Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby filed a complaint with the college. Dr. McDonald said in his defence that he does not view himself as an agent of the Crown.

In its ruling yesterday, the college ordered Dr. McDonald to appear before it to ensure he understands his role as a psychiatrist and to receive a warning. It said that but for his prior clean record, the punishment could have been worse. *** *** CORRECTION An Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons complaint committee issued a "caution" against psychiatrist Angus McDonald in its ruling earlier this week, not a reprimand. (Friday, November 2, 2001, Page A2)

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