Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Robin Mathews from B.C. Supreme Court
Dear Mary. There follows a brief "on the spot" report.
In courtroom 73 of the Supreme Court of B.C., March 7, 2007, people gathered concerned with the up-coming (?) trial of Basi, Basi, and Virk in the aftermath charges of the Dec. 28, 2003 search warrant "raids" on B.C. legislature offices, and they were joined at 9:42 a.m. by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett. The hearing was to be a half hour in length but ran into a full hour and a half.
Important things were said.
Eleven or twelve people populated the courtroom itself and eight or nine sat in the gallery. A high North window on the seventh floor room of the courthouse looked at and through a part of the huge glass roof sloping away out to the city of Vancouver.
Madam Justice Bennett referred, in opening, to two matters of document release. The first, I gather, was that the Globe and Mail appeared to have the Jan. 26 Application for Disclosure (covered on this blog) before Madam Justice Bennett did. Some kind of a leak it would seem. Surprise. In addition, a "member of the public" complained to the Justice about the fact that when major media were reporting upon and quoting from the Application, that person asked Criminal Registry for a copy and was bluntly refused. She passed the letter to counsel. Discussion followed among the judge and counsel, with the outcome that - apparently because of the public interest in this trial - all documents not under publishing ban will be available upon request from Criminal Registry (perhaps for a slight fee). Madam Justice Bennett graciously opened up scrutiny of documents concerning this trial. She remarked that there is a presumption in the law of public access.
But the repressive "protocol" imposed by Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm denying access generally to documents that are public documents in criminal trials is not lifted, and it must be lifted.
A great part of the hearing was devoted to the unfolding dates of steps leading to and concerned with the case. When should materials be filed; when should applications be made; when should they be responded to.... To cut a tangle of wrangling short, to this observer William Berardino, Special Crown Prosecutor, was asking in most circumstances for more time than Defence believed necessary. Was he trying to dislodge the April 2 starting date for the trial? I don't know. But, over dates, Defence and Prosecution tested the limits of courtesy.
In brief, Michael Bolton for Defence said it wanted to know, in short, what was the Crown's "theory of the case". And the Defence, further, pointed out that disclosure material was coming in as late as March 5 - of documents not before disclosed.
In short, it appears that Defence will file an Application on Charter issues (declaring, it seems, that the rights of the accused having been violated, charges are invalid) but that it cannot reasonably do so until it has under its hand materials that are still being disclosed. As late as March 5, documents of importance were disclosed for the first time.
Attempting to get to the core of the wrangling before Madam Justice Bennett, Defence counsel Kevin Mc Cullough declared that they were facing a major disclosure problem - one which, by the way, has dogged the process. How can a Charter Application be made until material is present and studied by Defence counsel? William Berardino rejoined (when Defence sought to speed up relations) that Prosecution needs a record of what is declared to be in dispute, not a telephone conversation about it.
In a few moments of almost digression, George Copley and Valerie Anderson, apparently representing the Province, appeared. Their appearance concerned documents reviewed, or privileged and declared irrelevant and documents apparently involving client privilege (as I understood their interventions). McCullough, for the Defence, intervened and said all the documents were the responsibility of the Special Prosecutor, that he was claiming "standing" in the court for Copley who, in effect, has no standing, and the documents should simply be disclosed. The Court appeared to agree with the burden of the statement by Defence.
Another hearing date is not impossible if filing dates get fouled. Otherwise, the case, it appears, will begin at 9:00 a.m. on April 2. Considering the last column I wrote for vivelecanada.ca which was posted on this blog, I must admit I will be surprised if the case begins on that date. But one more surprise in this unnecessarily convoluted case would not be surprising.
Again, Robin, thanks for your report. Thanks, too, for your valiant efforts to obtain documents for the public. Much appreciated. - BC Mary.
Great work Robin et al.
With dignity and a great sense of public service, he kept requesting those court documents until finally Justice Bennett heard him. Which finally pries open the doors for the rest of us.
I wish he hadn't been so modest. I wish he had told us all about that, as well as what the Big Media reporters wanted to know. Wouldn't I love to hear what he told them!
There's an intriguing paragraph set quietly in the middle of Robin's report today ... about George Copley. I googled him and found that George Copley is a lawyer from the Attorney General's Office. It's as if a whole new factor had been inserted into the picture: Judge, Prosecution, Defence, Government.
What do you think that implies??
You are doing us a wonderful service, and I am forever grateful.
Oh Mary...have you finished the "Raid" yet? Was it worth the coin you put out for it? I'm not sure I even want to ask my library to bring it in. **grin**
ORDER IN COUNCIL 184
Statutory Authority: Public Service
The effective date for the retirement of George Copley as a public service employee is April 1, 2007.
So I'm guessing they'll be having a good bye party for him and Valerie Anderson is the replacement?
"The Raid - A Novel" by Ken Merkley arrived a few days ago but there's been so much happening in real life, I got stuck at P. 38. Corporal Tim Murphy of the RCMP isn't showing a whole lot of promise so far, which could be another reason.
Sure, ask your Library to get the book in. Or will you wait for the movie?