Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Police , prosecutors look bad in raid case

So what are the Crown prosecutors and RCMP hiding in the legislature raid case?
That’s the big question that emerged this week from the corruption trial of former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk. The two are charged with accepting benefits in return for leaking confidential information about the B.C. Rail sale to one of the bidders.
The trial really hasn’t begun. Defence lawyers have been arguing for weeks in B.C. Supreme Court that the Crown has failed in its legal obligation to share the information its investigation uncovered.
Without that information, their clients can’t defend themselves, they say.
And now B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett has agreed, delivering an extraordinary ruling granting the defence all its requests and delivering a stinging slap for both the RCMP and the special prosecutor named to handle the case.
In our system, the Crown and police are required to share all relevant evidence with the defence. The object is justice, not winning a conviction by withholding evidence that might cast doubt on guilt.
Bennett was brutally direct in finding that the RCMP and Crown had failed to do their legal duty.
That wasn’t entirely surprising, especially after evidence last month that an RCMP officer had written “Not for disclosure” on the notes he had made of his interview with then Liberal party president Kelly Reichert.
But her 37-page ruling that ordered disclosure was scathing.
It included the directive that that “every police officer or civilian who touched or spoke about this investigation” review every piece of paper in their possession to see if they have documents that should be disclosed.
“I regret that I must make the following order in such broad and sweeping terms,” she wrote. “However, given the substantial failure to respect the disclosure rights of the accused, this order is the only way I believe I can ensure that no miscarriage of justice will occur.”
And Bennett raised specific questions.
Like what happened to the investigation into the activities of Gary Collins, then finance minister and Basi’s boss.
Collins was under suspicion in December 2003, just before the raid, she notes. The RCMP even set up surveillance when he met with representatives from one bidder for B.C. Rail in a restaurant.
“There is nothing that I have seen in writing that indicates who made the decision to stop pursuing Minister Collins as a suspect and when that decision was made,” Bennett wrote.
Bennett also ordered prosecutors to reveal what kind of deal they made with lobbyist Erik Bornmann to secure his testimony. He is expected to testify that he bribed Basi in return for inside information on the B.C. Rail.
The Crown has said there is no documentation on the immunity deal, despite a policy that requires such agreement to be set out in writing.
Bennett said that’s not acceptable. “There have been too many wrongful convictions based on informant information which was obtained in dubious circumstances,” she noted.
The case is obviously of enormous public interest. The charge of corruption around the sale of B.C. Rail, RCMP claims of a link to drugs, the subsequent allegations of Liberal political dirty tricks all raise significant concerns.
That makes the failure of police and prosecutors to fulfill their obligations even more alarming.
It’s a big mess. Three-and-a-half years years after the legislature raids, the mystery is just as deep and even more questions are left unanswered.
The RCMP’s credibility has been dealt another high-profile blow and the Crown prosecutor is on the defensive. Allegations of B.C. Liberal dirty tricks, funded by taxpayers, are left unanswered.
And the real trial hasn’t even started yet. Unless the Crown and police start performing, it might never start. The defence lawyers are likely to argue that the delays and the prosecutor’s failures have made it impossible for their clients to get a fair trial.
Based on her order this week, Bennett might be inclined to accept the argument.
Footnote: Allegations at the trial — like reports of a political dirty-trick operation being run by Basi with the knowledge of the premier’s office — have already embarrassed the Liberals. The potential for further damaging revelations increased sharply with Bennett’s order.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

2 Qs

Is B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett's 37 page disclosure decision available online?

Have any media tried to track down Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino to find out why he is 'missing-in-action' recently?

Thanks

BC Mary said...

.

Paul:

I've been asking and asking those same two questions, too?

Any clues?

It seems such basic rudeness not to explain why the people's own Special Prosecutor is missing. Is he sick? Is he sulking? Is he still working for us? Are we still paying his fee (was it $250? or $450 an hour?)??

If "None of the above" applies, shouldn't we be looking for another, more reliable Special Prosecutor?

BC Mary said...

oops ... that didn't sound right, Paul.

I meant "rudeness" on the part of the people in Courtroom 54. They're the ones who owe the public an explanation.

It has been apparent since these pre-trial hearings began, however, that while "the public" has a keen interest the B.C. Rail case, "the Court" has been indifferent to the notion of the public interest.

Thank goodness, that is slowly changing for the better.

But I remain convinced that the public interest is the vital factor in this affair that will guide, remind, encourage, push, embarrass, and perhaps goad The Court into fulfilling its duties.

If not us, then who will look out for our interests?

off-the-radar said...

hmmmm, what's that sound in the still of the night? why shredders fiercely working away in the wee hours of the morning.

I'm still betting on a mistrial. I so hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

This is becoming very worrying.

My very basic understanding is that the Court isn't obliged to use this trial to reveal anything to the public re the inner workings of the BC Liberal government. Just to ensure a fair trial for the accused & that if crimes were committed, there is a fair process to deliver justice.

It's the Premier's obligation to ensure that his Ministers and staff behaved in the public interest, and if not, to take appropriate action, including involvement of RCMP & prosecutors if suspected crimes were committed. The Premier also has an obligation to report to the public in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of his government. Of course he can't do so in a way that would interfere with the right of the accused to a fair trial. But clearly questions have been raised as to whether this requirement is being mis-used to shirk the duty to report to the public. Whether or not this is true, the chosen approach certainly does not intil confidence that all is well.

Of course one can't speculate as to why the Special Prosecutor is missing in action. There are many reasons people don't want to appear in court and that is why courts occasionally have to compel people to do so. If and when the Special Prosecutor does appear, I would imagine that he would have to answer any questions that may be presented.

Our system separates executive and judicial powers, and further separates offices like the police, prosecutors and judges, providing important checks and balances. The unusual silence of the Premier and the Special Prosecutor, along with the reported failure by the RCMP to reveal evidence, is what makes this all look especially worrying. And now we probably won't have a Fall Legislative session, which restricts another important check & balance -- i.e. denying our elected officials the opportunity to ask questions in the Legislature and demand accountability from the Premier as to what exactly went on or is going on in our government.

Anonymous said...

For the special Prosecutor I have produced a new name.

We have Stonewally and now we have "Where's Waldo" the missing special prosecutor. he must be around somewhere.

Anonymous said...

It'll be interesting to see if this other material actually provides any useful information to the defense. So far, it seems like part of the defense strategy has been to exact political retribution on the government for hanging the defendants out to dry. Lots of titillating innuendo, but really nothing particularly exculpating.