By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
The B.C. Court of Appeal heard Tuesday it would take a police officer an hour to explain complex reasons why a witness should remain secret in the case of three provincial government aides facing corruption charges.
And the Crown suggested charges against David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi might be dropped if it loses the secret witness appeal.
Virk’s lawyer Jim Blazina argued the court should uphold a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that defence counsel be present to hear the testimony with an undertaking not to disclose the secret witness’s identity.
Blazina told three justices that the secrecy reasons were extremely unusual.
“You’ve got to hear a police officer explain for about an hour why there’s an informant when usually it takes three sentences,” Blazina said.
To ban defence lawyers from hearing the testimony is “going too far in breaching the rights of the accused,” he argued. "I say the rights of an accused to a fair trial cannot be put aside just because of the issue of informant privilege."
It was also disclosed that references to the police informant came from the continuation reports of RCMP Inspector Kevin DeBruyckere. The defence has criticized DeBruyckere’s role because his brother-in-law is Kelly Reichert, B.C. Liberal Party executive director.
Blazina discussed DeBruyckere's connection to the secret witness in some detail in court.
"The court will see what's called a continuation report," from DeBruyckere, he said. "There's a black redacted area and a code. It will become apparent the vetting code is not the code used for a police informant."
Referring to another section Blazina said: "The five blank pages were only provided after the court's order for disclosure in June," referring to presiding BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett's sweeping order in June 2007 for disclosure of missing evidence to the defence.
On Monday special prosecutor Bill Berardino said the Crown would not breach informant privilege, opening the possibility of dropping the case if the court rules in favour of the defence. The Globe and Mail's Mark Hume reported that Berardino declined to elaborate on his statements outside the court.
Also revealed by Blazina on Tuesday was the fact that the evidence disclosed to the defence team has "swelled" to more than 300,000 pages.
The case continues Wednesday.
NOTE: A shorter version of this story will appear in 24 hours newspaper on Wednesday.