The British Columbia Legislature scandal took a detour to a Surrey courtroom on Oct. 9.
A lawyer for Vancouver Sun and Province publisher Postmedia applied to Provincial Court Judge Gurmail Singh Gill to unseal the RCMP’s April 9 version of information to obtain a production order to collect evidence from the Legislature. The hearing had been scheduled before the previous day’s release of former Vancouver Police deputy chief Doug LePard’s damning Sept. 9 report that sparked Gary Lenz’s retirement as sergeant-at-arms.
Postmedia’s lawyer Daniel Coles said in court that the onus was on the special prosecutor and a lawyer for the RCMP to convince Gill that release of the information would cause serious harm to the administration of justice.
Coles said the application has larger implications for the public interest in knowing how business is conducted at the Legislature and the conduct of the RCMP in the investigation, which is entering its second year. Maximum transparency and accountability is required, he said. ITOs are normally public documents after a search is finished and the evidence gathered, although judges have the power to seal files to protect an ongoing police investigation or the identity of an informant.
“Would the release of this ITO related to the trailer and the wood splitter cause serious harm to the administration of justice?” Coles asked in court. “I appreciate that Mr. Lenz and [Craig] James and individuals like them have suffered adversity through this process, but the horse is out of the barn on that issue.… if there is leaked documents and various hearsay evidence and innuendo, well the antidote to that is truth.”
Special prosecutor Brock Martland, Joel Katz, representing the RCMP, and lawyers for James and Lenz all opposed the application with a common theme. Now is not the time for the information to be released, because it could adversely impact the integrity of the RCMP investigation.
“In the course of an ongoing investigation, in which the ball hasn’t stopped moving down the field, there should be caution with respect to whether that sort of opining or analysis of the evidence should come into the public record at this stage,” Martland said.
“The application is a perfectly sound one, it’s not unreasonable and it’s not unfounded. The only real concern that I’m expressing with respect to it is its timing. It’s a little bit too early,” Katz told the court. “It is a complex, and multifaceted investigation and therefore should take as long as it needs to take.”
Lenz’s lawyer Bob Cooper of McEwan Partners said the case has been high profile and highly political. Neither his client nor James, who was represented by Gavin Cameron of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, has been charged with any offence.
“[Police] have been allowed so far to conduct their investigation in the way that they see fit and the way they normally do, in private,” Cooper said.
Gill reserved decision.
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