Law courts braced to cope with year-long, high-profile case

Wency Leung
Vancouver Sun

Monday, January 22, 2007

The New Westminster Law Courts are expected to be buzzing with reporters, photographers and camera crews from around the world this morning as one of the highest-profile murder trials in Canadian history begins at 9:30 a.m.
Photo timeline of the Pickton case
Gallery: Mothers, daughters, sisters
Special: Robert Pickton on Trial

In preparation for the trial of Robert William Pickton, court services staff worked all weekend to process last-minute applications from news outlets seeking accreditation, said media consultant Mark Jan Vrem.

Jan Vrem, who has been hired by the court services branch of the ministry of attorney-general to help handle the media expected to cover the proceedings, said on Sunday a total of 358 members of the media are now accredited to attend the trial.

They range from local news outlets to international operations, such as The New York Times, The Associated Press and Reuters.

The trial itself is expected to last more than a year.

Despite the massive anticipated media presence, Jan Vrem said he expected things to run smoothly today.

"Things are all under control," he said. "Generally, we think we have a good plan in place."

Court services officials and representatives from the deputy sheriff's department have been preparing the logistics and security for the trial for more than a year and a half.

Jan Vrem said sheriffs will be responsible for the security at the court, but he declined to reveal the number of officers who will be present.

Everyone entering the courthouse will be required to pass through two separate security screenings, the first at the entrance of the court and the second at the entrance of the two courtrooms designated for the trial.

Due to the huge anticipated volume of people interested in attending the trial, courtroom 101 will receive the overflow of spectators from the adjacent main courtroom 102, where Pickton will be tried on six counts of first-degree murder.

Pickton has pleaded not guilty to the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Marnie Frey and Georgina Papin.

No large bags will be allowed in either courtroom, and everyone entering the courthouse will need to pass through a metal detector. On Sunday, a half-dozen white media tents were pitched in Begbie Square outside the courthouse.

Candice Tanaka, 27, who lives in an apartment nearby, said she was worried the activity expected at the courthouse today will cause traffic congestion in her neighbourhood.

She said she's anticipating difficulties getting out of her underground parking garage in the morning.

Tanaka did not know whether she would sit in on the trial herself, but she said she would be following news reports. "Of course it's interesting," she said.

Others, however, said they are already tired of hearing about the case.

"There's been far too much let out about it," said New Westminster resident Al Dean, 63.

Ivan Coha, 62, of Vancouver, also said he had no interest in the trial.

"I don't even want to know about it," Coha said. "I don't like that kind of thing. I get sick."

Helen Kim, who runs the Victoria Food Market convenience store near the courthouse, said she is also not very interested in the trial.

Kim said that despite expectations for a large turnout, she did not expect business at the store to increase dramatically, as sales remained flat during Pickton's preliminary hearing in 2003 and the jury selection in December.

"It was very quiet," she said.

Staff at Pier 660 pub also said talk about the Pickton case amongst the locals has died off over the years.

Nonetheless, the trial has gained the interest of media organizations as far away as Europe, and even international news outlets that can't send correspondents to the trial are planning to report about the case.

Marco Smits, an Ontario-based journalist for the Nieuwe Revu newsmagazine in the Netherlands, said he would not be at the trial, but was writing about it from Ontario for his publication, as readers overseas are interested in proceedings.

Pickton on Trial

 The Vancouver Sun 2007

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