Pickton not the case to attempt new legal aid limits, judge warns province

Canadian Press

Thursday, October 31, 2002

VANCOUVER (CP) - Accused serial killer Robert Pickton is entitled to an adequate defence, not a Cadillac defence, says the Attorney General's Ministry. Days before Pickton's preliminary hearing on 15 charges of first-degree murder is supposed to begin, his lawyer was in B.C. Supreme Court to try and force the government to fund his defence team.

"We're running out of time," Peter Ritchie told the judge Thursday.

"We're on the eve of this thing. There's no further time for negotiations."

Ritchie said he and his partner have resigned from the criminal case and Pickton says he will represent himself when the hearing begins Monday morning.

The defence has boxes of information from the Crown lined up and ready to turn over to him, he said.

"I will deliver them to my client today and he will be appearing unrepresented on Monday," Ritchie told Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm.

Pickton is charged with murdering 15 of the 63 women who have disappeared from the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood since 1978. Thirty-eight of them went missing from the beginning of 1997 to November 2001.

Members of the police task force investigating the disappearances continue to comb Pickton's pig farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam.

Ritchie said Pickton's assets are tied up in the farm and he is unable to fund his defence.

There is no doubt that Pickton is entitled to funding if he cannot afford his defence, said George Copley, lawyer for the ministry.

"However, the attorney general is responsible for the careful stewardship" of public funds, Copley said.

Legal aid funding is provided "adequately, but not lavishly," he said.

The province offered a 60-day interim agreement while they further investigate Pickton's claim that he has no money, Copley said.

That deal would have paid three senior lawyers for 40 hours a week as well as 500 hours for junior counsel to do research and 500 hours of investigation time. The lead lawyer would earn $150 an hour, the other two $125 an hour. Junior counsel would earn $72 an hour.

Ritchie rejected the interim offer, calling it "preposterous" during a heated court appearance Thursday.

Ritchie said they need at least six lawyers, as well as costs to cover investigation and overhead, such as an office in Port Coquitlam where the preliminary hearing will take place.

Dohm adjourned the hearing overnight, asking Ritchie to get instructions from his client about a one-week adjournment of the preliminary hearing.

Ritchie said Pickton, who is in jail, wants to move ahead with the hearing and is "not the kind of person" who can be convinced otherwise.

Ritchie did not ask for a stay of proceedings in the case.

"We're not quite at that point," he said.

Dohm said it was regrettable that the province and the defence are so far apart and warned the Attorney General's Ministry about its approach in this high-profile case.

"This may not be the case to establish principles or to establish goal posts," he told Copley.

 Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press



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