Watch U.S. media for Pickton leaks, police told

Pickton's lawyer says he thinks some U.S. media have already violated the publication ban on preliminary-hearing evidence

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

The lead lawyer for accused serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton has written to the regional head of the RCMP and the Vancouver police chief urging them to monitor U.S. media outlets for breeches of a ban on publication in the case.

CREDIT: Chuck Stoody, Canadian Press Files

Pickton lawyer Peter Ritchie says he has neither time nor resources to monitor U.S. media for breaches of publication ban.

Peter Ritchie told provincial court Judge David Stone in Port Coquitlam Tuesday that his office does not have the resources or time to investigate breeches of the ban, which took effect earlier this month.

"We anticipate that [police] will not act only on the basis of a complaint," Ritchie said.

Ritchie said he believes some American news reports last week violated the ban by publishing details of evidence that is expected to be called in January at the preliminary hearing that was contained in a lawyer's affidavit.

And he said he supports any thing "that can be done to prevent anticipated or continuing breeches."

Earlier this month, Ritchie applied on behalf of Pickton to close the court to both the media and the public, fearing his client's right to a fair trial would be jeopardized by evidence from the preliminary hearing leaking out to the public.

He said he was particularly concerned about American news outlets not covered by the jurisdiction of publication bans imposed by Canadian courts.

Stone ruled he would not take the unusual step of closing the court, but would consider specific measures designed to deal with problems if they arise.

Stone expanded the ban on publication Tuesday to include not only evidence, but also any submissions or comments about the evidence expected to be led.

He also warned that if there are further problems related to breeches of the ban, he would revisit the issue of closing the courtroom.

Crown prosecutor Mike Petrie said he did not believe the reports last week technically violated the ban, though he requested from Stone the clarifications of the ban that Stone ordered.

At least three representatives from foreign news outlets were in court Tuesday as Pickton appeared in his usual wardrobe, a grey and black mottled sweater with black pants. At some points, he appeared to be smirking slightly.

The 53-year-old Port Coquitlam pig farmer has been charged with 15 counts of first degree murder of women who were on the list of 63 missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Families of another four women have been told by police that the DNA or remains of their loved ones have also been found on Pickton's farm.

Ritchie also complained Tuesday that while some of the requested disclosure had been provided by prosecutors in the last week, there is still more material the defence needs in order to properly prepare before evidence is called next month.

"We are working most industriously to see what we have and what we don't have," Ritchie said.

But he asked to return to court next week -- Dec. 23 -- to ensure that any outstanding disclosure issues are dealt with as soon as possible.

Ritchie also told Stone that he has not yet secured a long-term funding agreement with the ministry of the attorney-general for the defence team.

A 60-day interim agreement has almost expired, Ritchie said, and "negotiations appear to be moving at a glacial speed."

Earlier this fall, he formally withdrew as the counsel of record because the government would not provide money without more accounting of Pickton's assets. But a last-minute interim agreement was reached after Ritchie applied for a stay in B.C. Supreme Court under a Rowbotham application.

Ritchie did not say if he is prepared to withdraw from the record again if no money is forthcoming.

"I wish this court of be aware of the problem," he said. "We have not reached this final resolution." 

 Copyright  2002 Vancouver Sun

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