Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Province waives privilege, defence to see files

The Globe and Mail - February 19, 2008

VANCOUVER -- The provincial government has waived cabinet privilege over documents being sought by the defence in an oft-delayed political corruption trial that now seems on track for a summer start.

Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett of the Supreme Court of British Columbia clarified yesterday the issue of access to confidential government documents and set several hearing dates to keep the case against Dave Basi, Bobby Virk and Aneal Basi moving ahead.

The case, which stems from a December, 2003, police raid on the provincial legislature, appeared to have run into a major disclosure problem recently, when the defence demanded access to documents that the Crown said were covered by cabinet privilege and solicitor-client privilege.

But Judge Bennett said that, through discussion, legal teams on both sides have been able to reach agreement on at least some of the restricted documents.

"As I understand it, any claim of cabinet privilege is not being asserted," she said, addressing her remark to George Copley, a lawyer for the executive council of the B.C. government.

"That's correct," Mr. Copley said.

He added that "hopefully" the issue of defence access to documents covered by solicitor-client privilege can also be settled by a proposal that lawyers get the material by signing an undertaking not to disclose the contents.

Judge Bennett confirmed eight different hearing dates between Feb. 29 and May 5 in which a long list of motions and applications are to be dealt with.

She set aside three weeks in May to deal with issues concerning "the BC Rail vets" - vetted or edited documents that are related to the sale of BC Rail. {Snip} ....

Although the dispute over defence access to documents covered by cabinet and solicitor-client privilege appears to be resolved, defence lawyers still have some objections.

Kevin McCullough, the lawyer for Mr. Virk, told the court over speaker phone from Victoria that he has lingering concerns about the disclosure process.

"I don't want you to think that everything's fine there," he said.

"No, I didn't think that," Judge Bennett replied.

Mr. McCullough said he is concerned because the Crown initially gave the defence two lists: one of documents that were available for disclosure and one of documents that would not be disclosed.

Only later did the defence learn there were relevant documents that didn't appear on either list and it's not yet clear exactly how many documents might have fallen between the cracks.

"We don't have the [missing] stuff. I'm concerned," Mr. McCullough said.

But the Crown prosecutor, William Berardino, told court every effort is being made to address the issues being raised by the defence and he thinks all the concerns can be resolved. "That seems to be moving in the right direction," he said.

But the Crown will still face some challenges before the trial begins. Outside court, Michael Bolton, a lawyer for Dave Basi, said that after disclosure issues are dealt with, the defence will be bringing forward three Charter of Rights motions.

He said the defence will seek to set aside wire-tap material, attempt to quash the search warrants that allowed police to enter the legislature, and argue that the RCMP engaged in an abuse of process during the criminal investigation.

All the issues about disclosure and process will be dealt with in pretrial motions - and only after that will the trial begin.

No date was set for the start of the trial, but Judge Bennett has said in the past that the case is of significant public interest and she wants it to proceed as soon as possible. If no new issues arise, the earliest the trial could begin would now be some time in June.



Nice to see all the details coming out - and the future dates penciled in on the judicial calendar.

Now all that's left is the appeal of the ruling on the 'Named Person' case; that bashful whistle blower still needs a metaphorical bag over his or her head apparently.

Thanks to this maybe we will have a 'trial' before the snow flies this fall.

Will another shoe drop?
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