Dispute risks delay in Pickton hearing

Daniel Girard

Friday, November 1, 2002

VANCOUVER — A dispute over funding the defence of the man at the centre of Canada's largest serial-murder investigation is threatening to delay the case.

Robert William Pickton, 52, now faces 15 charges of first-degree murder.

British Columbia associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm yesterday chastised lawyers for the accused, Robert William Pickton, and the provincial government for not hammering out a deal to ensure a scheduled preliminary hearing can begin Monday.

Pickton, 53, is charged with killing 15 women —— predominantly drug addicts and prostitutes —— who disappeared from the downtown east-side since 1996.

"It is most regrettable to hear that there is such a difference of opinion as to what are the legitimate requirements to conduct the defence of this case," Dohm told B.C. Supreme Court. "I would have thought that we'd have had enough experience to be closer together than we presently are."

Dohm told lawyer Peter Ritchie, who resigned two weeks ago over funding, to ask Pickton if he wants to seek a one-week delay to his preliminary hearing on 15 first-degree murder charges.

CP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody

A mountie closes the gate at a Port Coquitlam farm being investigated in the disappearances of u to fifty women.

That week might allow the two sides to resolve their dispute, Dohm said.

Ritchie, who was to report back to court today, has said he will resume if a deal is struck.

He has said at least 200,000 DNA samples have been collected from the pig farm Pickton co-owns in suburban Port Coquitlam.

He reiterated that the case is so complex it requires at least six defence lawyers.

The government, which is investigating Pickton's claim that he has no money —— despite his family's sale in recent years of land for development —— agrees the accused is entitled to legal aid funding if he cannot afford it, said lawyer George Copley.

In the meantime, he said, the government has offered a 60-day deal to pay for three senior lawyers —— one at $150 an hour, the other two at $125 an hour for 40 hours per week ——plus 500 hours for a junior counsel at $72 an hour and 500 hours of investigative time.

"We're funding the defence adequately but not lavishly," Copley said. "Mr. Pickton will get competent and adequate defence but not Cadillac defence."

If Ritchie is not willing to take on the case, Copley said the government is ready to help Pickton find another defence team that will.

Ritchie, who noted that finding new lawyers would delay the case even further, said the accused is prepared to do the job himself.

If a funding deal is not struck, boxes of case files will be delivered to Pickton's jail cell, he said.

The preliminary hearing on the 15 charges is expected to take at least three months.

Courtesy of

Digging for evidence at BC's notorious pig farm-Oct 19, 2002



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