Monday, April 02, 2007
Breaking news ... from Courtroom 53
A REPORT FROM THE COURT
April 2, 2007 (Basi, Basi, and Virk)
The event took place in courtroom 53, and as "ordinary Canadian", I was there. There was a little tidy-up business involving the Extradition Act before the Basi, Basi, Virk pre-trial conference. The gallery was large, with very few people in it. Obviously, the absent press and media people knew something I didn't.
The Extradition business quickly done, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett left the courtroom. The one other remaining person and I asked the clerk about the pre-trial conference. "Oh," said the clerk, "that's been postponed until April 12." And she graciously asked me not to take too much time getting out of the (to be shut) courtroom.
I went downstairs to talk to the Criminal Trial Coordinator, Mary Ellen Pearce, with whom I had left the list of three documents I wish to have in order to provide information to this site and vivelecanada.ca. They were the announced response by the Crown to the February 26 (March 14 named) Application for Disclosure by the Defence, the announced March 21 Charter challenge by the Defence, and the reply of the Defence to the response of the Special Crown Prosecutor to their Application for Disclosure.
Recall that at the March 7 court event Justice Bennett announced that documents would be available, that the matters of the case would be open, and she remarked that there "is a presumption in law" of public access to documents.
I asked to speak to Mary Ellen Pearce (who is always gracious and helpful) to ask if the documents have been released to ordinary Canadians like me. She nodded at the printed Supreme Court List and said they would be discussing that today in courtroom 53 (meaning, I take it, that release of documents has not been worked out). I told her the session has been postponed until April 12. And then I asked her how an ordinary Canadian who wishes to attend can find out if there are cancellations or postponements. Ms. Pearce said she didn't think there is a way. If counsel talk and decide they want to postpone at the last minute, even she might not know - as she didn't know today.
She informed me that Ms. McBride, a court officer, had written me last week about the documents I requested. Ms. McBride's letter has not yet crossed town to my address.
I suppose the question has to be this: how did all of the press and media people know that the pre trial conference was not being held today, and the clerk in 53 knew, and Madam Justice Bennett knew, but there was no note on the posting board (which everyone consults), and no way for someone like me to avoid spending half a day for nothing? I believe that if all the press and media people could be told not to bother going to the court, there should be a way that the information can be posted (internet, announcement board, even to a list people registering to be informed when press and media people are informed about particular cases).
The courts exist as public tribunals. They belong to you and me. The problem I ran into today shows, one more time, that the public is considered non-existent in these matters, and that the little "inner group" keeps its members informed without a thought for "ordinary Canadians". Indeed, the "ordinary Canadian" element has been injected into the Basi, Basi, Virk/B.C. Rail scandal because the press and media have failed so prodigiously in their responsibility to report. The little "inner circle" can effectively destroy information the public should have.
Example: when I was said to be a catalyst that helped move Justice Bennett to announce the Basi, Basi,Virk matters would be open and documents available, I was interviewed by the Globe and Mail reporter present. "Why had I written the letter that Justice Bennett passed to counsel on the subject?" I told him that the imposition by Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm of a gag rule upon ALL documents in Criminal Registry, denying them (probably illegally) to Canadians almost universally was the major reason. And of course I wanted to see documents in this case. The Globe and Mail story cut out all reference to Patrick Dohm, the main reason for my letter. Is the Globe and Mail afraid to offend Patrick Dohm? Why did it not tell the facts of the matter?
Whatever the answers, it's plain "ordinary Canadians" need to be at such trials to report what really happens. When the major press and media fail in their responsibility, ordinary Canadians must step in.
If by some remote chance the reader didn't guess who wrote this report, I'm pleased to say that it was our own Robin Mathews on the job once again. Thank you Robin. And here's a teaser: I heard that it was April 10 (not 12) for the next hearing. What's that? Cue the maniacal laughter? Oh, it's going pretty steady these days.
- BC Mary.
Excerpt from late edition Vancouver Sun:
Court briefs: Legilsature raid (sic)
NEAL HALL, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, April 02, 2007
A pre-trial conference will be held next week for two former provincial government aides facing trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting a benefit.
The case was briefly in court Monday but adjourned until April 10.