Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Basi-Virk judge says anticipate trial in early January; defence unconvinced

BC Rail corruption case may finally be heard - or not

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist

The new B.C. Rail corruption case judge says the trial should begin in early January 2010 – six years after police raided the B.C. Legislature.

Justice Anne MacKenzie told her first court hearing since taking over from Justice Elizabeth Bennett that she is intent on moving quickly to the trial of former B.C. government ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk for alleging leaking confidential B.C. Rail sale documents to lobbyists representing a bidder.

“You can anticipate that this trial will start in early January - that’s a reasonable assumption,” MacKenzie said.

But defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, representing Virk, was not convinced.

"I don't think disclosure will be completed," McCullough told MacKenzie.

"I do Mr. McCullough," MacKenzie replied sharply.

“This trial was going to start in November 2005,” McCullough pointed out while objecting to MacKenzie’s proposed schedule for remaining defence applications. "Mr. Justice [Patrick] Dohm said it was."

"I don't want to get off on the right foot - I want to be of help to the court," McCullough continued.

"You have been Mr. McCullough - I'd like to hear from the Crown," MacKenzie responded, cutting the defence lawyer off.

NDP MLA Leonard Krog was impressed with MacKenzie’s zeal to proceed.

“The train has a new engineer and she wants more coal in the fire box,” Krog said outside court. “She intends to drive this.”

"You get the feeling this judge is going to take a stronger view," Krog said, while being careful not to criticize Bennett's term in charge of the case. Krog is both NDP critic for the attorney general and a lawyer himself.

But defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing Basi, was more cautious when asked if the trial will indeed begin in January.

"It all depends on the 11B motion," Bolton said, referring to a defence application that will argue the accused's Charter rights have been violated by not having their trial heard within reasonable time limits.

"Is there prejudice suffered by the accused?" Bolton asked.

The other reason the trial could be delayed - or not take place at all - is the impending decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue of whether a secret witness will be heard under extremely restrictive circumstances.

Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino appealed a decision by Bennett that defence lawyers could be present in court when information about the secret witness or informer was discussed. Berardino objected, saying he wanted only the judge and his team in court, with defence, media and the public barred to ensure the witness was not identified.

Bennett disagreed, as did the BC Court of Appeal when Berardino requested it overturn her decision, leading himto take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada heard the appeal in a one day hearing in April but has not yet rendered its decision.

The next court date is October 13 at 10 a.m. with three days set for BC Rail document issues.

December 1 was set down for hearing the Charter of Rights Section 11B application, which is expected to take five to eight days.

NOTE: A version of this story will appear in 24 hours newspaper on Thursday.


Anonymous said...

McCullough is no doubt laughing his ass off at Judge Mackenzie’s timeline. The judge can burn all the coal she wants to…the defense team will keep driving this circus train in circles. Next they will argue swift justice has been denied. This show is going nowhere.

DPL said...

A judge runs the court, not a lawyer. If she told them to crank it up I figure both sides better get their acts together.This thing is getting a bit long in the tooth. If justice is to be done, folks better start getting sworn in soon.

Anonymous said...

I have my doubts about January too but imagine the trial . . . in-progress . . . in February of 2010.

Especially with all that World Press sitting on their butts drinking beer and looking for something actually important to write about.

That would be Gordon Campbell public relations I would pay to see.

But since I don't believe in God or "democratic justice in BC" . . . I doubt if anything like that will ever be allowed to happen.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if Judge Mackenzie has some concerns with the way Justice Bennett has ruled over defence motions regarding disclosure.

dmc said...

The 6-7 year delay is an embarassment to Canada.
This gong show has gone on and on, because 'they' don't want to truth to come out.
If cases are dismissed,due to an abuse of process,
a 14 month waiting period, then,
Why hasn't this case been thown out?! The federal govt. is resonsible.If not, then he international community should be yelling INJUSTICE. Which I believe they have, but the MSM is forbiden to speak on issuses that are hidden 'behind the courts'. You know, "it's a matter of national security".

Kam Lee said...

"The petitioners are the defendants in the longest running judicial saga in Quebec legal history. A trial that had occupied no less than eight years....."

Looks like gordo is trying to beat that record. If he has nothing to hide, why are there all these road blocks in the way? From Bill B, Judge Dohm, gordo's lawyer / hacks, etc. Hmm, like the old saying, "there must be a pony in here, with all this horseshit been hurled around. Give it up gordo. Off you go, to the nearest bar...

BC Mary said...

Now, more than ever, I think it would strengthen the public interest factor if

... if more people took their places in the public gallery to observe these historic BC Rail pre-trial hearings.

While we rely upon the paid professionals to report on these hearings (and thank you for that),

the Citizen Journalists tell a whole different kind of story -- ones that need telling, that go straight to the heart, like a chat with a neighbour,

describing the sights, the sounds, the tone of voice, the muttered "asides", the things overheard in the corridors which, taken together, make these courtroom hearings more real for the vast majority of us who can't attend.

Heaven knows, there's an information vacuum that needs filling.

On the West Coast, we have a province high-jacked for its regional railway system -- its lifeline. Big Media isn't keen on OUR story ... not like the bishop arrested on the EAST coast today.

Well, the heck with Big Media. Citizen Journalists can tell the BC Rail story best, anyway.

But first, people need to attend the hearings. And Bill says the next hearing is Oct. 13 with possibly 3 more days after that for BC Rail document issues.

A public gallery filled with interested citizens would be an important reminder to judge and lawyers that there IS a public interest.

So help me, I'm gonna try to be there myself. Thanks Bill.

Deep Throat said...

Mr. Premier, its George Copley can I take a few minutes of your time?

Uh, okay but do we really need to have a discussion?

Yes, and unfortunately a very serious discussion.

Okay, okay let’s have it…but first let me call in Martyn Brown and in the process let me get a drink!

Okay, so I read this week that the new judge wants to speed up the process by having a December 1st hearing on the defence’s application that the accused's Charter rights have been violated by not having their trial heard within reasonable time limits. And I also read Palmer’s rather innocuous take on the matter – which I liked.

So what’s the big deal?

Don’t you see? She isn’t just trying to demonstrate that she is taking control. She is also “setting the stage” to “smoke us out”!

As you may recall and on your instructions, we have still not complied with all the Court’s disclosure Orders and as you may recall in February of last year Berardino had a hard time in Court not pointing the finger at us. So, I simply cannot be asked by you to defend to the Court your instructions. I can’t go in like Berardino and say that I am “working hard” to secure the documents. I would look like a disingenuous fool! And aside from pointing out this obvious failure to disclose as well as more embarrassing facts coming out about the “lost” e-mails, I am also sure that Mr. Bolton will have some other damaging “bombshells” to drop directed right at you.

In my opinion Mr. Premier, he will paint a very comprehensive and damaging picture…

So, what do you want me to do?

That b#^*#!

Okay, okay but isn’t the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on the "secret" witness expected to be out within the month?

Yes, that’s true Mr. Premier.

…Okay George, thanks for your advice. Let me think about and I will get back to you…

Well Martyn, I guess we could just keep trying to “tough it out” in the hopes that it goes away as Palmer suggests…but I must admit that it tires me greatly as it is in my mind all the time…

Or perhaps we should “hope” that someone will tell Berardino to “pull the plug” as he said he might once the Supreme Court has ruled against us.

But if that happens we will then need to find a way to avoid a public inquiry at all costs. Do you understand Martyn? At all costs…

But then again, I guess we will have to eventually “cross that bridge” when we come to it…

Martyn could you close the door on your way out?