Picktonís lawyers threaten to pull out again over funds

No agreement reached yet, defence tells judge

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Defence lawyers for accused serial killer Robert Pickton may be forced to withdraw from the case for a second time if provincial government funding is not secured soon, one of the lawyers told a Port Coquitlam judge Monday.

Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun Files / Robert Pickton's defence lawyers (from left): Peter Ritchie, Pat McGowan and Marilyn Sandford who made latest call for funding and raised disclosure of evidence concerns.

Marilyn Sandford said that despite weeks of negotiations between Pickton's legal team and the ministry of the attorney-general, no final agreement is in place.

"We are very concerned on the defence side that funding has not been finalized at this very late date," Sandford told Judge David Stone.

She said the funding impasse may "affect our ability to continue on as counsel."

Pickton's legal team withdrew from the case in September but returned after agreeing to a 60-day interim funding deal.

Sanford says the terms of that deal were never finalized and that no agreement is in place to cover Pickton's preliminary hearing.

Evidence in that hearing is due to begin Jan. 13, making the lack of an agreement even more "critical," Sandford said.

Pickton, 53, is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of women on the list of dozens who have vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in recent years.

When Pickton's lawyers withdrew from the case in September, they claimed they could no longer spend hundreds of unpaid hours preparing when the government was not willing to sign a funding agreement.

Under a 1988 Ontario Court of Appeal decision, known as Rowbotham, charges can be stayed against an individual if that person is unable to retain a lawyer for the assets available.

The decision affects people who would not normally qualify for legal aid, or need more than the maximum amount available under legal aid.

Pickton's lawyers made a Rowbotham application in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this fall, but it was adjourned when the interim funding agreement was reached and the lawyers returned to the case.

Pickton's lead lawyer, Peter Ritchie, raised the issue in provincial court Dec. 18 and negotiations have been going on over the last week, Sandford said.

But because key government people are on vacation for Christmas, "we cannot have what we are looking for, which is an intensive face-to-face negotiation," Sandford said.

A meeting to try to resolve the issue is to be held Jan. 7.

Pickton was present in court as his lawyers also raised the issue of disclosure of evidence before Judge Stone.

Sandford said while Crown prosecutors have made great strides in getting material to the defence team in the last two weeks, there are still outstanding disclosure issues.

Defence lawyers are looking for notes from forensic experts related to DNA, which are being stalled because of Christmas holidays, Sandford said.

Pickton's team also wants the results of wiretaps conducted by police investigators, Sandford said.

"It is a large volume of highly relevant material," she said. "It is going to take a long time to go through this material."

Sandford said the defence is still looking for some of the search warrants police are using to obtain evidence in the case, as well as copies of the items seized as a result of the some of those searches.

She also complained that videotaped witness statements provided to the defence are on DVDs and none of the lawyers has a DVD player.

Stone replied: "I think you can pick up a DVD player for about $90." 

© Copyright  2002 Vancouver Sun

Courtesy of



Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016