Monday, July 21, 2008

 

Top court to be asked to protect source's identity

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Crown to appeal ruling that allows Basi-Virk defence access to informant's name

MARK HUME
July 15, 2008

VANCOUVER -- Seventeen classified government documents will be handed over to the defence in a political corruption trial, but the Crown is still fighting hard to hold onto one secret - the identity of a police informant. {Snip} ...

Mr. Berardino said although that appeal will cause more delays in the case, which still hasn't come to trial five years after an unprecedented police raid on the B.C. Legislature, he is hoping for a quick ruling.

"We are doing our very best to expedite this appeal. ... We are hoping to get that decision as soon as possible," he assured the court. {Snip} ...

Defence lawyers had been trying for a year to get access to the documents, which were seized in 2003 when police searched the offices of ministerial assistants, Dave Basi and Bobby Virk.

Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk were at the time trusted officials involved in the government's pending $1-billion sale of BC Rail. The third man charged is Aneal Basi, who was a low-level communications officer.

A summary of the privileged documents shows the material includes communications between a law firm and government, cabinet minutes and at least two documents labelled "Shred after meeting."

Michael Bolton, lawyer for Dave Basi, said he didn't know what was in the documents, but the judge had reviewed the files and had determined they are relevant to the case.

"We know it's important material and we're eager to get it and we're pleased that we're getting it," he said. "We've been seeking these documents for a very long time."

Roger McConchie, a lawyer representing The Globe and Mail and CTV, raised questions in court about the agreement.

"Once defence counsel are given copies of these documents ... there's a powerful argument that any solicitor-client privilege that may have applied to these documents is gone," he said.

Mr. McConchie said the media would challenge a publication ban on the material. But Judge Bennett said that argument was premature and should be saved for when the documents are entered in court as evidence.

"I'm not prepared to make a publication ban today [to cover all the documents]."

Media lawyers will return to court on Thursday to discuss the issue further.

Leonard Krog, defence critic for the New Democratic Party, said outside court the government should release the material without any restrictions.

"Here we are 4½ years down the road and the government is still working hard to keep these documents limited to viewing by as small a number of people as possible," he said. "The defence has had to fight tooth and nail to get access to these documents. So the question is, what does the government have to hide?"


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080715.BCBASI15/TPStory/National

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Mark Hume update:
BC cabinet assailed in Court
The Globe and Mail - July 18, 2008
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080718.wbclaunder0718/BNStory/National/home

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See also: Bill Tieleman
for detailed account of media lawyers arguing for openness
http://billtielemanblogspot.com/

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