The precedent-setting ruling will see for the first time the emails of a sitting premier turned over to defence lawyers for three former BC government aides facing corruption charges connected to the $1 billion sale of BC Rail in 2003.
But it remains unclear whether those emails still exists, since it was learned last week that backup tapes still existed in early May 2009 but a government order was issued to destroy them and the tapes were sent to an outside contractor for disposal. EDS Advanced Solutions was sent the tapes but it is not known yet if the order to destroy them was completed.
Defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, said outside court Bennett's decision was extremely important.
"This may be the most critical ruling in this case," Bolton said. "It's virtually unprecedented."
And Bolton raised the possibility that the defence will use the possible elimination of evidence as grounds to have the case dismissed.
"Potentially the destruction of evidence by recklessness or neglect could be a very significant factor in this case and could lead to a motion for dismissal of charges, but that's down the road," Bolton said. "There's no question that this case has been a challenge with disclosure."
NDP MLA Leonard Krog said outside court the ruling is very important.
"Justice has won in BC today - even the premier must be accountable," Krog said. "But Justice Bennett has had to order the government to do what Premier Campbell promised to do months ago."
Bennett ruled that not only Campbell's emails related to BC Rail and Pilothouse Public Affairs - the lobbyist firm of Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran, who are alleged to have provided bribes to Basi and co-accused Bob Virk - but those of several cabinet ministers and political staff are "likely relevant", which allows the defence to apply for a court order that they be produced.
Among those whose emails were ruled likely relevant are: former Deputy Premier Christy Clark; former Finance Minister Gary Collins; former Transportation Minister Judith Reid; former Energy Minister Richard Neufeld; current Housing Minister Rich Coleman; current Transportation Minister Shirley Bond; current Campbell Chief of Staff Martyn Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff Lara Dauphinee and issues Management staffer Jay Schlosar.
Campbell’s current Deputy Minister Jessica McDonald and former Deputy Minister Ken Dobell will also have their emails produced, along with those of former Deputy Finance Ministers Paul Taylor and Chris Trumpy.
Other current and former BC Liberal government politicians and staff whose emails were ordered disclosed include:
Brenda Eaton, a former deputy minister; Mike Morton, Campbell's former press secretary; Tom Syer, Campbell's former policy coordination and issues management deputy chief of staff; David Cunningham, Campbell's former Deputy Communications Director; current Deputy Solicitor General David Morhart; Yvette Wells - former Director of the Crown Agencies Secretariat; Assistant Deputy Minister Kevin Begg in the Solicitor General's ministry;
A few cabinet ministers and staff emails were ruled not "likely relevant" and therefore do not have to be produced.
Those include current Health Minister Kevin Falcon, who took over as Transportation Minister after Reid; former Attorney General Geoff Plant; current Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel; former Transportation Deputy Minister Dan Doyle; former Christy Clark ministerial assistant Kim Haakstad; Neil Sweeney, Campbell's former Deputy Chief of Staff, Issues Management, and Stuart Chase, the former Public Affairs Bureau officer who was monitoring the Basi-Virk case in BC Supreme Court and reporting back to Victoria - a story I first broke in 24 hours.
Bennett made mention of Chase specifically, saying that "much was made of Mr. Chase's conduct at court. But just because actions may be called political does not make them relevant."
Bennett is now hearing defence arguments that she should stay on as trial judge despite her promotion to the BC Court of Appeal earlier this year.
Joe Doyle, representing defendant Aneal Basi, argued that Bennett should rule that she will remain to hear the case.
"The accused have had you as trial judge for nearly four years ....they are facing serious charges and deserve to have you continue as the trial judge," Doyle told Bennett.
"There will be delay if this trial is assigned to a new judge - there's no question about it," Doyle said. "There's simply no replacement for having sat on the case for three and a half years."
Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino has previously argued in court that Bennett should be replaced immediately because of her promotion and a new trial judge assigned.
MORE TO COME LATER