Monday, July 21, 2008

 

B.C. Rail secrecy a betrayal

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When Gordo's best friends begin telling him that he has B.O., the times they are a-changin'. But Lord in Heaven, what took them so long?? - BC Mary
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Times Colonist
Editorial: July 16, 2008

It's outrageous that the Liberal government is fighting to keep evidence in the B.C. Rail corruption trial hidden from the people of the province.

The case involves the public interest and raises fundamental questions about the $1-billion sale of the Crown corporation. The charges against three former government officials are serious. The government should be embracing openness, not arguing for the right to have secret evidence used in the trials of Dave Basi, Bobby Virk and Aneal Basi.

It has been more than four years since police raided the legislature and carted away boxes of evidence and the RCMP warned darkly of the reach of organized crime in B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell promised then that the government would co-operate fully with the investigation and be "open and transparent." [Yes he did. Over and over, he used those very words: Open and transparent. He said everything would be open and transparent. Then he said he wouldn't sell B.C. Rail. - BC Mary.]

Yet this week, government lawyers argued that some 90 documents relevant to the trial should be subject to a sweeping publication ban. Even if they are introduced as evidence, the government lawyers maintained the public should never know what is in them. The cabinet, which had resisted providing the documents at all, offered to turn them over to defence lawyers as long as the contents were secret from everyone else, including the three accused and the public.

That position contradicts Campbell's promise of openness. It fails to recognize the public interest in full accountability. And it undermines the justice system, as the guilt or innocence of the three accused could be decided based on secret evidence. They could be acquitted, or found guilty, and the public would never know why.

The case has already brought the legal system into disrepute. It has been marked by repeated delays, a significant number of them because the prosecution has failed to meet its obligations to disclose evidence to defence lawyers. The slow progress has left the three men -- and the government -- under a cloud for far too long. And it has deprived British Columbians of needed answers.

Now the Crown is creating another delay, which could push the start of the trial well into next year. Special prosecutor William Berardino has been fighting to bar defence lawyers from a hearing on whether an informant in the case should be allowed to keep his or her identity secret. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett ruled the lawyers had a right to attend.

The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld her decision. Berardino this week said he will attempt to take the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The delay is unjustifiable.

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=84a7161b-03c1-4579-995e-e8fcfc096539

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