Missing Women Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal at the December 2012 release of his report Forsaken on how the justice system failed the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton.

B.C. prosecutors shift stance on support for vulnerable witnesses

Change flows from handling of woman who escaped from serial killer Robert Pickton, Missing Women Inquiry recommendations

B.C.’s Crown prosecutors are revising how they deal with vulnerable victims and witnesses to crime in response to the 2012 Missing Women Inquiry findings that their mishandling of one woman may have let serial killer Robert Pickton extend his murder spree for years.

A prostitute barely escaped alive from his Port Coquitlam farm after a bloody knife fight with Pickton in 1997 but charges of attempted murder against him were dropped a year later, in part because Crown decided the drug-addicted woman was unable to credibly testify.

Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal recommended changes in Crown procedures and suggested in his report that better support for the woman and preparation by prosecutors to deal with her might have gleaned more information from her and got the case to trial.

At least a dozen women went missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside between the 1997 attack and Pickton’s 2002 arrest, including the six women he was eventually convicted of killing.

The province’s Criminal Justice Branch unveiled a new tailored policy to deal with vulnerable victims and witnesses, recognizing that, in cases involving serious injury, they require ongoing support throughout the prosecution.

The policy highlights various best practices, including early identification of witnesses needing support and seeking appropriate protective conditions as part of any bail order.

“Crown counsel should keep in mind that vulnerable victims and witnesses may be particularly subject to pressure, intimidation and interference,” the policy says, adding Crown should try to determine why they’re reluctant to testify and develop strategies to address the issues.

Vulnerable witnesses are defined as ones where there’s a reasonable likelihood that their effective participation in the justice system “will be significantly diminished, or eliminated, if accommodations or supports are not made available.”

It says people in the sex trade, as well as aboriginals, may be particularly vulnerable.

But witnesses may be vulnerable due to various other factors, including addiction, homelessness, mental illness, advanced age, a history of being abused, precarious legal status or ethnic, religious or cultural perspectives.

Just Posted

Commercial development eyed for property adjacent the Vedder Bridge

Rezoning hearing for the proposed development on Vedder Mountain Road is set for Dec. 3

Crown seeks dangerous offender designation for Chilliwack gangster

Jonathan Olson, who has history of violent crime, found guilty in connection with 2017 crime spree

Prolific offender arrested in Chilliwack apartment raid

David Allen Geoghegan has a history of breaching conditions and warrants issued for his arrest

LETTER: Chilliwack should be ashamed

Everyone needs to come together to solve city’s problems, says letter writer

PHOTOS: NHL honours B.C. grandma’s battle against cancer in special match

Shea Theodore’s grandmother Kay Darlington dropped the puck at a special ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ game

Freezing rain on the way to B.C.’s Fraser Valley, Interior

Road conditions will be icy and slippery, Environment Canada warns

Woman accidentally shot by her son in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park, police say

Everyone involved, including the woman, not cooperating with investigators, VPD says

University of Victoria threatens any athletes who speak about rowing coach probe

Barney Williams has been accused of harassment and abuse

B.C.’s largest catholic archdiocese names 9 clergymen in sex abuse report; probes ongoing

Vancouver Archdioces presides over 443,000 parishoners in B.C.

Smudging in B.C. classroom did not affect Christian family’s faith, says school district lawyer

Lawyers make closing arguments in a Port Alberni case about the Indigenous cultural practice

Canadian Forces member charged with possessing magic mushrooms in Comox

Master Cpl. Joshua Alexander, with the 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron, facing two drug related charges

Most B.C. residents, including those hit by 2018 storms, not prepared for outages: report

Create an emergency kit, BC Hydro says, and report all outages or downed lines

Study finds microplastics in all remote Arctic beluga whales tested

Lead author Rhiannon Moore says she wasn’t expecting to see so many microplastics so far north

Most Read