Senior RNC officer also subject of RCMP probe into former N.L. cabinet minister

CBC News can reveal some new details of the police investigation that saw cabinet minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh lose her job — the identity of a second person caught up in that RCMP probe.

Paul Didham is a senior officer with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

But earlier this month, he found himself on the other end of a police investigation.

A judge signed a warrant for the Mounties to seize cellphones from Didham and Gambin-Walsh, over allegations of breach of trust.

Earlier this week, CBC News filed an application at provincial court to unseal documents the police used to convince a judge to issue the warrant.

Court operations have been disrupted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Provincial court is not operating from its courthouses, and the judges and most employees are working from home.

In a decision made by phone Friday afternoon, Judge Jacqueline Brazil said, “I cannot see how I can justify scheduling a hearing of this application in light of the climate.”

The matter will be called again in late June, to potentially set a later court date sometime after that.

“When we do get back to normal times, of course, we have a lot of trials that are backed up … and we’re going to have a lot to do,” Brazil said.

Didham wants warrant unsealed

A Crown lawyer from Nova Scotia has been brought in to handle the matter.

Mark Heerema previously worked another politically sensitive case in this province — the Brandon Phillips murder trial.

He called for the unsealing application to be delayed.

“Given that, in many ways, the news industry is derivative to what we do in court, in this context it would be strange indeed if the news got priority over the court matters,” Heerema told the court.

A lawyer for the province and Gambin-Walsh also said the CBC’s application should wait until normal operations resume.

But there was a different message from Didham.

His lawyer, Jerome Kennedy, told the court that Didham wanted to have the search warrant made public.

“If this was a hearing, my client would be consenting to the unsealing of the warrant and the releasing of the ITO, because we’d like to know what’s in it too,” Kennedy said.

ITO stands for information to obtain a search warrant. An ITO contains details the police provide to a judge in support of their application.

No comment from RNC, RCMP 

An affidavit signed by RCMP Cpl. Lindsay Devereaux alleges that Gambin-Walsh and Didham committed a breach of trust by leaking information from government processes that are subject to cabinet confidence. Those allegations have not yet been proven in court, and no charges have been laid.

The order allowed Devereaux and the RCMP to seize cellphones belonging to the cabinet minister and police officer.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is not commenting on the investigation involving one of its senior officers. 

An RNC spokesperson said the force will not be disclosing Didham’s job status, calling it a human resources matter. 

Didham worked on the RNC’s traffic enforcement unit and was often the public face of road safety for the force. 

In 2016, he was named police officer of the year.

Didham is a senior officer with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and is often the public face of traffic safety measures for the force. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

A provincial court judge signed off on the general warrant on April 2.

Gambin-Walsh — who had been serving as minister of Service NL — was removed from cabinet the next day. She remains MHA for Placentia-St. Mary’s, and a member of the Liberal caucus.

Premier Dwight Ball said Gambin-Walsh informed him on April 3 that she had been served with the warrant. At that time, Ball said, he stripped Gambin-Walsh of her cabinet responsibilities. 

Shortly after her departure from cabinet, Gambin-Walsh posted a message to her constituents on Facebook declaring her innocence.

Didham’s lawyer, Jerome Kennedy, said late Friday afternoon that his client had nothing to add to the comments made in court on his behalf earlier in the day.

The RCMP is not commenting on the ongoing investigation.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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