By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
In her last appearance as judge in the Basi-Virk corruption case Justice Elizabeth Bennett has dismissed defence applications to obtain private documents from B.C. Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella and have him testify in a pre-trial disclosure hearing.
"This will be the last time you'll see me on this case," Bennett told defence and Crown lawyers at B.C. Supreme Court, where she has presided over lengthy pre-trial hearings going back to early 2006.
Bennett has been promoted to the B.C. Court of Appeal and will be replaced by Justice Anne MacKenzie.
But before leaving Bennett dashed the hopes of defence lawyers for ex-B.C. Liberal government aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, who face corruption charges related to the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail in 2003.
Lawyer Michael Bolton, acting for David Basi, said outside court that while the defence is disappointed with Bennett’s final rulings, they plan to call Kinsella as a witness and again ask the court to order production of his private documents.
“The defence still views Mr. Kinsella as a key figure in this matter,” Bolton said. “This application will without question reappear before the new trial judge.”
In her ruling Bennett said that despite defence allegations Kinsella may have been working for both B.C. Rail and its eventual buyer CN Rail at the same time, no evidence was produced to back that claim.
It was learned earlier this year that Kinsella was paid $297,000 by B.C. Rail for “business advice” from 2001 to 2005.
But Bennett said that if Kinsella did indeed work for CN it would open the door to defence applications.
“I remain firm that if Mr. Kinsella worked for both firms it has relevance to this case,” Bennett said. “That would make [his] documents likely relevant.”
Bennett also made a ruling that Kinsella’s lawyer James Sullivan had obtained transcripts of earlier hearings in the case in violation of a court order that they not be given to potential witnesses, but blamed the transcription company for the error, not Sullivan.
Bennett ordered production of a list of people who gained access to the transcripts be released to the defence.
Bolton called the transcript decision “very important” to the defence. Sullivan was not in court to comment.
NDP MLA Leonard Krog said Kinsella should not be breathing easier despite today's ruling.
"The judge may have closed the door on the defence today but highlighted that matters around Patrick Kinsella may be revisited," the NDP critic for the Attorney General said. "I am confident this isn't the last we'll hear on matters related to Kinsella and his involvement in the sale of B.C. Rail."
A version of this story will appear in Tuesday's 24 hours newspaper.