Thursday, November 27, 2008

 

Top Court will step into BC Legislature Case

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The Canadian Press
November 27, 2009


Top court will step into B.C. legislature case

OTTAWA — The country's top court will step in to referee a legal wrangle arising from a highly-publicized police raid on the B.C. legislature.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in a ruling released Thursday, agreed to hear an appeal by prosecutors who want to block defence lawyers from learning the name of a confidential police informant.

The high court, in keeping with tradition, gave no reasons for its decision to intervene. A full airing of the issues and a final judgment will likely take months, further delaying a case that has already dragged on for nearly five years.

The legislature raid in December 2003 led to charges of fraud and breach of trust against Liberal ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk in connection with a $1-billion deal by the province to privatize B.C. Rail.

Aneal Basi, a government communications officer and cousin of Dave Basi, faces charges of money laundering.

Their lawyers want to be present at a closed-door, pre-trial hearing that will assess whether the Crown must disclose additional details of its case against the men.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett of the province's senior trial court ruled last year that defence counsel can attend the hearing as long as they promise not to divulge confidential information to anyone, including their clients.

Special prosecutor Bill Berardino has objected to that arrangement, saying the defence must be barred from the hearing because evidence there could identify an informant used by police to build their case.

The Crown argues that sharing the name at this stage of proceedings would fly in the face of established legal practice, and could have repercussions across the country in any criminal case involving a police informer.

[Excuse me, Learned Folks, but this case is already having repercussions across the country in matters of public perception, elections, governments, and accountability. Does the Basi Virk Basi trial hinge entirely upon this witness? Wouldn't it be better to move ahead without this witness? - BC Mary.]

The dispute isn't the only one that has dogged the proceedings. Defence and Crown lawyers have argued over disclosure of a wide range of documents, including provincial cabinet papers.

But the showdown over the informant is seen by some as having the potential to derail the whole prosecution.

Berardino has said in the past he won't back down on his contention that the identity of informers must be protected. That has raised speculation that, unless the Supreme Court agrees to bar the defence lawyers, the Crown could pull out of the hearing or even abandon the case entirely.

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- The Province. Appeal of Defence ruling to go ahead. Keith Fraser. 27 Nov 2008.



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