Monday, January 07, 2008

Basi-Virk: more delay, new disclosure application as Crown appeals secret witness ruling, defence says case has "more paper" than Air India or Pickton

The long-awaited trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi in the BC Legislature raid case may face further delays and not start in March as planned, it became clear today in BC Supreme Court.

And an exasperated defence lawyer complained that the Basi-Virk case now has "more paper" - documents entered as potential evidence - than either the Air India bombing trial or the Robert "Willie" Pickton murder trial!

Two new developments - one from the Special Prosecutor, one from the defence - could further push back the trial, which has suffered from lengthy delays already.

Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino is appealing a decision of BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett to allow defence lawyers to be present when a secret witness who is a police informer testifies. Berardino will take that fight to the BC Court of Appeal but the timing and length of that hearing are as yet unknown.

The defence has also filed another application for disclosure of evidence, arguing that the Crown has not provided information needed to prepare a full defence against charges of breach of trust, fraud and money laundering against the former BC Liberal government aides.

I was in BC Supreme Court for a short period today, just long enough to hear Berardino tell Bennett: "We need a week plus a couple of days to comply with most of this. I suggest we return January 16 if it's alright with your ladyship."

"I thnk we need to back up a bit so I can see what issues are outstanding," Bennett replied.

In the end Bennett decided court will resume pre-trial hearings Wednesday January 9 to complete the issue of BC government claims of solicitor-client privilege over documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail - documents the defence wants turned over.

And then a pre-trial hearing on BC Rail "vets" - a review of BC Rail documents to see which are relevant to the case - and on a notice of motion - will resume on Thursday January 17.

Bennett also heard a complaint from Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, that the defence is being swamped by massive disclosures of documents.

McCullough said the defence has received more than 45,000 pages of evidence from the Crown since October 22, following 12,000 in July. The court has previously heard that there are more than 100,000 pages of evidence.

McCullough told Bennett that this case now has more documents than either the Air India bombing trial or the Willie Pickton trial for the murder of six women from the downtown eastside - both lengthy and complicated cases.

The veteran criminal lawyer said he cannot read more than 1000 pages a day - 500 if they are reviewed comprehensively.

Meanwhile, I have been able to piece together some information on the Monday December 17, 2007 court session.

As you may know, there were no reporters present and no stories filed - regrettably I was unable to attend myself. The Canadian Press has almost religiously covered the pre-trial hearings but no reports were issued for that day.

My understanding is that arguments continued on the issue of the BC government claiming solicitor client privilege over BC Rail documents the defence is seeking access to.

As noted in my earlier reports, the defence has argued that Bob Virk, through his position as Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of Transportation and an attendee at BC Rail Evaluation Committee meetings, saw these documents previously but is now denied copies for his defence.

Government lawyer George Copley has yet to respond to those defence arguments but is expected to do so Wednesday January 9.

Lastly, Justice Elizabeth Bennett has ruled that the defence lawyers could remain in the courtroom to hear the testimony of the secret witness-police informer but has not published reasons for that ruling, which, as mentioned above, will be appealed by the Special Prosecutor.

8 comments:

PG said...

Bill,

4 years later and disclosure is still coming?

The Defence files another application in the first week of 2008 and the Special Prosecutor needs more time!!

GREAT SATAN said...

Bill:
We are watching one of the most disgraceful events in all of Canadian political & legal history.
As Canadians, we look down on the dirty-trick games of Americans and the brutality of the Third World system, but Robert Mugabe would understand what is unfolding here in BC, and so in honesty should we.
Our underwear is pretty dirty right now.

Gary E said...

Berardinos' suggestion that they reconvene on January 16 smells like a stall. Justice Bennetts' setting a date for January 9 on the surface appears to be a rebuke to the prosecution. I think she may be determined to carry on with all these stalls instead of sitting and waiting for the appeal to be heard. Could it be that she is making the prosecution work twice as hard? Because it is their delays that appear to be causing problems. If she continues to work around this appeal, good for her. And great for the people of B.C.

Anonymous said...

Gosh Bill, I have to wonder just what this court case is costing us. Some folks hope it will just go away but others want some results. Back at it on Wednesday. First thing I do in the early morning around 06:00 is go check to see if the case is being worked on.

Keep an eye on them for us who can't drop over to Vancover on the odd chance that they will sit. since the schedule never gets posted till the early morning, it makes it impossible for us, out of towners to show up.

Gazetteer said...

Mr.T--

On Mr. Good's radio program this morning I'm pretty sure you mentioned that you thought the next fallback position for the government might be cabinet privilege.

I find that interesting on all sorts of levels, but mostly because it was my impression that Mr. Copley was actually trying to throw a little sand in the court's eyes when he quoted from the Spring 2007 exchange between Mr. Campbell and Ms James in the Ledge.

Why?

Well, it would appear a fulsome reading of the entire exchange actually indicates that Mr. Campbell may have ceded cabinet privilege.

Specifically, here is the passage I am referring to, taken directly from Hansard.

Hon. G. Campbell: I do want the Leader of the Opposition to understand what I've done here. In terms of the screening of cabinet documents, all those documents will be available to the Deputy Attorney General. He will make the decision vis-à-vis CABINET confidentiality or any of those issues in consultation with the special prosecutor. He will make the decision without any further consultation with me or anyone in the Premier's office.


_____
(anyone interested can read my take on the matter here)

Anonymous said...

This sounds like some kind of hollywood movie. Secret witnesses with no defence lawyers or the public in attendance, special deals for lobbyists who readily admit to bribing government officials yet they are not charged with a single thing, links to the governing party with secret documents marked "not for disclosure", family relationships between senior investigators and the party in power - correct me if I am wrong Bill but does this sound like one of the southern states in the 1950's or is this modern day BC????

Whats next, boss hogg driving into town in his cadillac?

off-the-radar said...

its becoming a film noir . . .

Budd Campbell said...

Anonymous 8:42 is the humourist of the day when he asks, with a straight face, if this is a ante-bellum state in the 1960's or "modern day BC", aka, The Best Place on Earth!

I drew parallels before with the Sommers case, so I won't go through that again. Suffice it to say that BC today is about where Arkansas was forty years ago in terms of political ethics and the sophistication of the electorate. Both ends of the spectrum do whatever they can to keep it that way, whether it's Liberal fixers or NDP ideologues.

And I still want to know if Prosecurtor Berardino will ever be expected to answer the question "Why wasn't Bornmann charged with offering a bribe?" Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation, but the point is that there needs to be some explanation, not just a naked love or leave it proposition.