Monday, March 26, 2007
Robin Mathews, from Criminal Registry: "copies may be obtained in future"
The letter came to me from H.L. McBride a supreme court law officer, dated March 9, 2007. It concerned the Queen (Regina) v. Basi, Basi and Virk. With copies to the four lawyers involved, the letter recorded the matters known - that there was an "unauthorized" release of the Application of Disclosure of Feb 26, and the fact that Madam Justice Bennett was releasing it to me - a copy sent to me.
The key part of the letter to me, however, came in the last paragraph. It reads as follows:
"During the hearing, Madam Justice Bennett also indicated that she will be establishing a protocol for media and public access to documents filed in this matter. In the future, copies of further documents ordered released may be obtained from the Criminal Registry upon payment of the usual photocopying charges. If you have questions, please contact me."
I was in court on March 6 when Madam Justice Bennett made clear that she intended the matters of this case to be open and she intended documents to be available to the public unless there was clear reason why one or another document should not be available.
(First, as I pointed out to Madam Justice Bennett in a letter, documents have been consistently available from counsel even while clerks at Criminal Registry have been absolutely denying them to people who apply there to receive them. Secondly, the protocol imposed by Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm denying almost all documents to the public from Criminal Registry is a denial of the freedoms of Canadians; it is an intolerable imposition of secrecy, and very probably illegal.)
With the letter from H.L.McBride in my possession on March 26, 2007 - three weeks after Madam Justice Bennett made her decision and announced it in court and saw it reported in the newspapers - I went to the desk at Criminal Registry to request (1) a copy of the March 14 filing by the Special Prosecutor of his reply to the Application for Disclosure of Feb. 26 made by the Defence, and (2) to request a copy of the Charter Challenge filed by the Defence on March 21, and (3) the reply of Defence to the response by the Crown Special Prosecutor to the Application for Disclosure of Feb 26.
The young woman at Criminal Registry seemed pleased to tell me that she would not let me have any of the documents. She read the letter referred to in the first paragraph above. The documents, she said, had not been "ordered released". I told the young woman I knew that she couldn't give me her full name because clerks in Criminal Registry live in such great danger, but would she give me her first name. It is Danica. I simply want to record that Danica was not different than any of the other clerks there; she was equally as rude and arrogant as all the others I have dealt with in Criminal Registry.
Before leaving the Supreme Court building I asked to speak with Mary Ellen Pearce who is the Criminal Trial Coordinator. I explained the situation to her; she read the letter from H.L. McBride and made a copy of it. She was gracious, and - of course - helpless. She asked me to write down on the obverse side of her copy of the letter the specific documents I wanted, which I happily did.
Mary Ellen Pearce said at one point something to the effect "that I suppose you know documents are not usually released from Criminal Registry". I said I knew that and I hoped the ruling would be broken before too long. I felt rather as someone might have felt in 1944 going to a Nazi Gestapo office in, say, Poland, looking for a relation. Some gracious person would probably have said: "You know people who are Jews or Gypsies or homosexuals or political dissidents are sent to Buchenwald to be gassed." She would have said it graciously, no doubt, no more questioning the fact than Mary Ellen Pearce questioned the right of Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm to deny to Canadians the right to examine and to possess copies of matters placed on record in the highest British Columbia court.
In my letter to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett on March 8, I thanked her for intervening and changing the status of documents in the Basi, Basi, Virk matter. I wrote, in addition: "I look forward to and anticipate receiving service from the desk at Criminal Registry". She did not write back and say, "don't waste your time because I don't intend to release documents." And so I wasted an afternoon, one more time, attempting to get what is the right of any Canadian to get from the Supreme Court of British Columbia. And once again, I was denied.
Let us hope the whole matter is a confused heap and tangle of orders misunderstood in Criminal Registry. With the most generous interpretation put on the matter, however, it does not speak well of either the competence or the reliability of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
I will write to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett again ...
Thank you, Robin. Good Luck. A bit like a Franz Kafka novel, isn't it?
- BC Mary.
What an appalling situation. And to Robin, as always, a huge thank you for his incomparable services and his patience.
You certainly manage to stay on top of things, even when nothin' seems to be happening. You obviously have connections I lack, but then I have you.
Anyway re:"I told the young woman I knew that she couldn't give me her full name because clerks in Criminal Registry live in such great danger, but would she give me her first name."
Why are court clerks in "such great danger?" Clerks are mere functionaries that are dis-functional, unless their job is to deny the public access to information. Judges who sentence offenders and the crowns who prosecute them understandably tempt the wrath of a bad guy for whom they make life difficult. However a registry clerk only risks being held hostage, just like any other citizen. They have no power to make significant decisions that I can see.
The courts have become so tainted with political 'garbage' - the stench is palpable ~ behind the scenes nudging & 'games' are rampant. Significant cases have been dismissed & conclusive evidence omitted from Judgments, all with the slight of hand by a Judge, in order to shield high profile reputations.
To deny the facts does not change the facts & we all must keep pushing to clean up the courts, the government & their linkages.
There is nothing like 'airing the truth' to create real political change. You & B.C. Mary deserve accolades.