Government Collusion on B.C. Rail File?

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Courtroom 55 is a large room ... the setting for a historic pretrial BC Rail Hearing
30,000 new pages of disclosure material was received in the last month, Michael Bolton, Defence lawyer said.

Two key matters emerged, to be dealt with a little later. In the meantime:

  • Defence hinted - but only hinted - that the Special Crown Prosecutor, William Berardino is [still] providing material inadequately and in a way that might be construed as deliberately obstructive.

  • Delays which are laid at the feet of the Crown (while probably possessing substance) are - I believe - largely the result of a presiding judge who has failed (a) to call early for disclosure material, (b) to prepare the way (with competent homework) to have materials in her care that obviously will be needed in the process, (c) to insist upon prompt, fully annotated, disclosure, attached to real deadline dates, and (d) seriously, meaningfully to rap knuckles for failure to comply. Behind all the wrangles that occur and have occurred in the case, is the judge who acts more as a referee than the key person "seized" with the matter.

In that regard the fact that January is out for movement on the case because of the prior committments of actors involved seems to this ordinary Canadian a little outrageous. That fact, too, probably has to be placed at the door of the judge presiding.

As I have said before, this is not a case about break and entry into a warehouse. It is a case bearing significantly on the legitimacy of the government in power in the act of legislating for the people of British Columbia. And if there is the slightest question (and there is) that there may be or have been criminals among those who legislate in the present government, all slates should be kept clear, all attention should concentrate on the case, and pursuit of the issue should not be delayed for any reason.

Those things explain, in large part, why the role of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett must be figured in.

For people who only hear about the matter from some kind of media source, it might be interesting to know that courtroom 55 is a large room. Into it came 10 lawyers - Defence and the Crown huddling for minutes before the opening of the session, obviously trying to work out some agreements about process. In the large gallery sat about eight people to begin. No representative from the Attorney General's office, no lawyer for ex-minister Collins, no NDP justice critic. Madam Justice Bennett entered the courtroom at ten minutes past nine - and the hour was taken up with the scheduling problems, mostly, to which I have referred.

The two key matters: the first was almost incidental to the discussion, but it was thrust into play. In the Bornmann e-mails, in the B.C. Rail materials a shape of things (that should have been plain much, much earlier) involving "the inner circle", cabinet-connected figures, the "conduits" for information flow is beginning to be seen. That may open matters of involvement by the the directors of Basi, Virk, and Basi that the public has long wanted to know about. Whether it will mean further charges must be laid is quite another question. At this time.

The other key matter is the information the Special Crown Prosecutor provided that he will be asking for an in camera meeting with the judge - excluding not only press and public but also the lawyers for the Defence. A most rare request.

Historically, such a request is only made if the personal safety of a person or of persons is at threat. One must stretch one's imagination hard to think who might be physically endangered by information that the Defence, at least, shares, in relation to the Basi, Virk, and Basi matters.

To this observer, moreover, a side aspect of the issue threw into highlight, once again what I am led to feel frequently is the court's contempt for average Canadians.
Asked outside the courtroom about the nature of the in camera application and whether the public and press would be able to hear the argument of the Defence against being excluded, Mr. Berardino (quite rightly) would not be drawn. The judge had said, "say nothing". He was obeying.
Asked how press and public could learn whether they could attend the argument, Mr. Berardino said they should consult counsel (hire a lawyer to make representation for them.)
Doubtless CanWest Monopoly Press and Media has counsel. But what about you and me?

I said that I believe the judge has an obligation (not a choice) to inform the public well before the event whether they may be present when the Defence presents its arguments against an in camera meeting that excludes it.

In normal circumstances, in a flourishing democracy, ordinary Canadians would know that their champion and informant would be the judge presiding who would aggressively care for their interests in the matter. The judge would "represent" you and me, and think about the exclusion from the point of view of our interest in being in the courtroom, particularly, and from the point of view of the interests of Canadians at large. She would hasten to tell the public if it is to be admitted or not.

This long process has made very clear to me that we will be very lucky if Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett weighs our role in any serious way. The courts in Canada are increasingly a playground for the rich who play their games before judges; and the 'people' get in the way of the games the rich play.

[Sincere thanks to you, Robin, for being our eyes and ears in Courtroom 55, and for connecting the elements into something coherent; distresssing, but coherent. A very large virtual bouquet to you, once again.    
- Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino dropped a bombshell in BC Supreme Court Friday, telling Justice Elizabeth Bennett that he wants defence counsel excluded from attending an application on whether secret witnesses could testify in camera in the Basi-Virk trial.

Defence counsel for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi appeared stunned by the submission by Berardino ...

Go to Bill Tieleman's blog for his full report. Unbelievable!
And, please don't think that I made this up, or that I deleted large chunks of this following newz story; I didn't. This is the Vancouver Sun's entire coverage of this stunning event in B.C. Supreme Court today:

Special prosecutor requests in-camera hearing without defence lawyers
Vancouver Sun
Friday, November 23, 2007

Special prosecutor Bill Berardino made a rare request for an in-camera hearing where the defence lawyers are excluded at the pre-trial hearing in B.C. Supreme Court for Bob Virk and Dave Basi.

B.C. Supreme Court judge Elizabeth Bennet will hear submissions from the lawyers and various news organizations Dec. 3 to determine whether or not to hold the in-camera hearing.

Basi and Virk are former legislative assistants who are charged with supplying information about the B.C. Rail sale. - B.C. Mary]


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