By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
The trial of three ex-government aides facing corruption charges will be delayed up to a year after the Crown said Monday it will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada decisions by two B.C. courts regarding secret witness testimony.
Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett he will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn her ruling that defence lawyers could attend a hearing closed to the public and media where a police informant’s identity might be revealed.
The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld Bennett's ruling in a decision released last week.
Berardino’s appeal drew an angry response from New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog, who said the public needs to know why police raided the B.C. Legislature in December 2003 and later charged David Basi and Bob Virk with giving lobbyists secret government documents in the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail.
“I am extremely disappointed Mr. Berardino has chosen to delay further the most important case in front of the B.C. courts,” Krog said outside court. “The public interest in having this case heard far outweighs everything else.”
And it appears unlikely that Premier Gordon Campbell will be forced to testify in court. Government lawyer George Copley told Bennett that a deal between the defence and government will give lawyers for Basi, Virk and Aneal Basi access to documents where solicitor-client privilege is claimed, pre-empting a defence motion requesting Campbell testify.
An update hearing will be held September 17 and vetting of documents is scheduled for September 29.
Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton said in an interview outside court that Berardino's appeal to the Supreme Court will lead to an undetermined delay of at least a number of months.
"The Supreme Court of Canada will take until October at the earliest to decide on leave to appeal," Bolton said. "It could be up to several months for a Supreme Court of Canada case to be heard."
"The inevitable result will be some delay but the extent we don't know," he said. "We can do parts of the vetting but it's highly unlikely we can complete it without a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada."
Krog again called for a public inquiry to be held into the political corruption case regardless of the outcome.
"The public interest in favour of having this case heard far outweighs everything else," he said. "Everything that has happened in this case taxpayers have paid for - the prosecution, the defence, the courts."
"Whatever happens, there has to be a public inquiry," Krog said. "If ever there was a case when a public inquiry is needed, this is it."
NOTE - A shorter version of this story will be published in Tuesday's 24 hours newspaper.