By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
5:30 p.m. - Several “political operatives” and an individual with information about key Crown witness Erik Bornmann and the Liberal Party have all tried to shield their identities from the public in the B.C. Legislature raid case, the B.C. Court of Appeal was told Wednesday.
The new information came from defence counsel testimony in a hearing over a secret witness in the trial of three provincial government aides facing corruption charges.
Special Prosecutor Bill Bearardino is asking the court to overturn a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that defence lawyers be present to hear the testimony of a secret witness in the trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.
Basi’s lawyer Michael Bolton told a three-judge panel that several potential witnesses have attempted to remain unnamed.
“Someone who has material evidence – one of the political operatives there are so many of who have requested anonymity – the defence will have no opportunity for response in providing a full defence,” Bolton said.
And Aneal Basi’s lawyer Joe Doyle named another potential witness who was denied secret status.
“Mr. Jas Sekhon wanted to be a police informant,” Doyle said. “He goes on to describe details about the Liberal Party and Bornmann – I won’t go into that.”
Outside court Doyle declined to identify Sekhon further or confirm exact spelling of the name or say which Liberal Party – federal or provincial – he was referring to.
Former provincial lobbyist Erik Bornmann is the Crown’s key witness in the case.
Berardino defended the Crown’s position on the secret witness request.
“If we could give the court a three to four minute synopsis it would be crystal clear why defence counsel should be excluded,” he said.
Berardino argued that Justice Elizabeth Bennett, the presiding judge in the BC Supreme Court case of Basi, Virk and Basi, had erred in ruling the defence lawyers could be in the courtroom to hear testimony about the secret witness from police.
"There is no evidence for the trial judge to make such a finding," Berardino said. "The Crown has never said this is not a clear case of a confidential police informant....we have refrained from it."
Berardino also said the defence had exaggerated the degree of secrecy that would result from the witness giving testimony in the absence of counsel for the accused.
"All of the information at the in-camera hearing - without identifying the informant - would be disclosed to the defence," he told the court.It appeared initially that the three-person panel of judges might issue an immediate ruling late in the afternoon.
Chief Justice Lance Finch told the courtroom that he, Justice Ian Donald and Justice Catherine Ryan required a break because: "We're not quite clear howe we're going to do this."
But after a 25-minute recess Finch came back to say that judgment in the three-day hearing would be reserved, with no timeline for that decision.
BC Supreme Court Justice Bennett will hold a case update on June 20 and is scheduled to reconvene the pre-trial hearing on June 30.
It is unclear whether the Court of Appeal will issue a decision before either date or whether it could have an impact on the BC Supreme Court proceeding.
NOTE - A shorter version of this story will appear in 24 hours newspaper on Thursday.