By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
A veteran media lawyer attacked the provincial cabinet for attempting to impose what he called a “secrecy package” publication ban in the case of three ex-B.C. Liberal government aides facing corruption charges connected with the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail.
“This is a case that cries out for transparency and the maximum degree of public scrutiny,” Roger McConchie, representing CTV and the Globe and Mail newspaper, told Justice Elizabeth Bennett.
“This application and this order is a secrecy package,” he said of attempts by government lawyer George Copley to keep B.C. Rail documents protected by solicitor-client privilege from being made public even though they will be made available for possible use by defence lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.
“What the provincial cabinet is asking this court to do is create a new category of solicitor-client privilege,” McConchie.
But Copley earlier argued that: “Solicitor-client privilege must be kept as close to absolute as possible.”
"We ask the court that solicitor-client privilege contiue to have full force and effect," Copley said, unless Bennett rules otherwise at a future date when the trial commences."Essentially the media are seeking to intervene on an issue between defence counsel and the Executive Council," Copley said, referring to official terminology for the provincial cabinet.
Defence lawyers for the accused reached an agreement with Copley that will allow them access to about 90 B.C. Rail documents the government claims are exempt from disclosure due to solicitor-client privilege.
Copley's motion would have the documents seen only by three defence lawyers without their contents being divulged to anyone else. Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton previously told the court that three of the documents are likely of crucial importance to defending his client.
In court Thursday Bolton, Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough and Aneal Basi's lawyer Joe Doyle all agree with Copley's proposed order.
The pre-trial hearing continues Friday with more media arguments against a publicity ban from McConchie and Ludmila Herbst, a lawyer representing the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers and Global television.
NOTE: A version of this story will be published in 24 hours newspaper on Friday July 18