Samiran Lakshman is president of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association.

Samiran Lakshman is president of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association.

Prosecutors see risk in televising riot trials

Video cameras may give defence 'another weapon' to overturn convictions

B.C.’s plan to televise the trials of Stanley Cup rioters is causing concern among prosecutors, according to the president of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association.

Samiran Lakshman warned the planned video broadcasts – if approved by judges – could jeopardize the cases against those rioters or others yet to be charged.

“Not every witness will want to be broadcast on YouTube and the 6 o’clock news,” Lakshman said.

He said the spectre of video trials could open a new avenue for defence lawyers to overturn a conviction, particularly if a witness who might have bolstered an accused’s defence refuses to testify.

“We want to make sure we don’t in any way endanger the prosecution or dissuade people from coming forward.”

If courts approve the video broadcast of an accused who objects, “the defence may have another weapon in their arsenal that the right to a fair trial has been violated.”

Attorney General Shirley Bond last fall ordered Crown to pursue video broadcasts in the riot cases.

B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch had initially opposed the idea.

Crown counsel spokesman Neil MacKenzie said applications will be made on a case-by-case basis and the aim will be to televise substantive appearances, including both trials and sentencings.

No applications have been heard yet but it’s expected the video feed would be web cast to provide equal access.

Judges will have to carefully weigh the implications of allowing a web-streaming camera in the court.

Limiting the broadcasts to the sentencing stage – after rioters have either pleaded guilty or been convicted – may be one way to address many concerns, said Bentley Doyle, communications director for the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.

“The sentencing phase is separate so that might be the way to introduce this,” he said. “But the trial process itself would be a lot scarier.”

Judges would need a kill switch to stop video transmission of anything prejudicial, he said.

“The timing of this is more for political optics than logical,” Doyle added. “Why are we bringing cameras into a system that is already hurting for money?”

Lakshman said prosecutors also want to protect their own privacy and he predicts most of them will refuse to be captured on video at riot proceedings.

“They have every right to say no,” he said. “None of the prosecutors on the riot prosecution team have given their consent for their image to be broadcast.”

Lakshman said the courts should be a place for solemn pursuit of the truth – independent of political motives – and not devolve into a “shaming activity” that brands people with “scarlet letters.”

His bigger concern about the public focus on the televised riot trials is that the broader challenges facing the congested court system will be ignored and compounded.

“These applications will occupy precious time that we don’t have to spare in a system that is stressed from the get-go and doesn’t have the capacity to deal with this additional influx of cases,” Lakshman said.

There remains a real and growing risk that more criminal cases will be thrown out because of unreasonable delays, he said.

As of Sept. 30, more than 2,500 adult criminal cases had been waiting longer than 18 months, up from 2,038 in September of 2010.

Bond argued the circumstances of the downtown Vancouver riot justify the use of cameras to satisfy the public demand to see justice done.

“The Stanley Cup riot was watched by many across the province on their home televisions as the event unfolded,” she said in a statement.

“As a result, there is significant interest by the public in these prosecutions and they want greater transparency when the courts deal with those charged in the matters surrounding the riot.”

B.C. Supreme Court has allowed cameras in rare cases – such as its deliberations on anti-polygamy laws last year – but under tight conditions that include a time delay and let any participant refuse to be broadcast.

Twenty-seven people have so far been charged with participating in a riot, and most face additional charges, such as break and enter, mischief or arson.

Vancouver Police say charges may be recommended against hundreds more.

Rioters torched police cars and other vehicles and looted stores in downtown Vancouver June 15 after the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Cup final.

Photo released by VPD from night of June 15 riot

Photo released by Vancouver Police of a suspected rioter on the night of June 15.

Just Posted

A student prepares to throw a plate full of whipped cream at principal Jim Egdcombe’s face as vice principal Devin Atkins watches as part of a fundraiser at Leary Integrated Arts and Technology elementary on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
The pied principals: Chilliwack elementary staff get messy for charity

Cops for Cancer fundraiser saw kids ‘pie the principal’ at Leary elementary in Chilliwack

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Chilliwack drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

Jordyn Huitema plays for the Canadian national women’s soccer team. (Soccer Canada photos)
Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canada battle Czechs to 0-0 draw

Huitema’s national women’s soccer squad played a friendly match against the Czechs in Spain

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Most Read