Funding dispute over pig farmer's defence continued outside court

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

VANCOUVER (CP) -- A hearing into a dispute over defence funding for accused serial killer Robert Pickton adjourned unexpectedly Wednesday as lawyers for Pickton and the Attorney General's Ministry decided to continue talks privately.

BCTV News on Global
Robert Pickton

The decision to adjourn the hearing until Thursday, before Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm of the B.C. Supreme Court, came after lawyers for both sides held unusual in camera talks in court with the public and media excluded.

Meanwhile, Pickton has filed a writ in court asking for a delay in his preliminary hearing, set to begin next Tuesday.

Crown lawyer Michael Petrie said outside court that the writ is intended to "review" the decision of a provincial court judge earlier this week that the preliminary start Tuesday. Arguments will be heard regarding the writ later this week.

Provincial court Judge David Stone said during an appearance by Pickton on Monday in suburban Port Coquitlam that he wanted the preliminary hearing to start Tuesday even though Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie, has said he can't be ready by that time.

Ritchie officially withdrew as Pickton's lawyer several weeks ago because of the funding dispute, but still represents him in the funding application in the B.C. Supreme Court.

He has also continued to appear in the Port Coquitlam hearings as a "friend of the court," saying Pickton cannot represent himself.

Pickton, 53, is charged with the first-degree murders of 15 of 63 women who have disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

A local TV station, BCTV, reported this week that the immense scope of the murder investigation was revealed in a letter authorities sent to the families of the missing women.

The Global television station reported that the letter states police have 8,600 exhibits that come from the pig farm owned by Pickton.

Another 2,600 exhibits come from a second property, collected during the investigation into the disappearance of the missing women.

Most of the exhibits are swabs that have been submitted for DNA testing, says BCTV.

Outside court Wednesday, Ritchie said little about the funding issue.

"Judge Dohm has been very helpful here and he has given us directions as to what we should try to do to resolve this and that's what we are working on right now," he said.

He said he felt that the funding issue would be resolved by the end of the week "one way or the other."

Ritchie also declined to talk about the writ and his bid to postpone the preliminary hearing.

"It hasn't been spoken to yet and the judge doesn't have much information about that so I can't tell you much more than we're just trying to preserve some jurisdiction at the present time."

Asked if he was trying to delay the start of the preliminary, Ritchie said: "We're actually awaiting the outcome of this week's (court) order or (funding) agreement before we can take the next step."

The adjournment followed several hours of closed-door hearings before the judge in which a lawyer for the Attorney General's Ministry and Ritchie argued over how much money and how many lawyers the defence needs to properly represent the man.

The so-called Rowbotham application was ordered heard in camera by Dohm to allow the Crown to outline its case against Pickton and give Ritchie time to respond.

Ritchie has rejected an offer by the ministry, calling evidence earlier in the week that the fees of $150 an hour for himself and $72 an hour for junior lawyers were too low. He has proposed a top rate of $200 an hour.

The judge's highly unusual decision to have a closed door hearing rather than impose a publication ban prompted some media outlets to hire a lawyer earlier this week to try to fight the decision.

On Wednesday, media lawyer Dan Burnett said it wasn't clear to him why Dohm made the decision.

He said he found the order frustrating because he "hadn't heard a single reason advanced by the judge or anyone else as to why a publication ban would be insufficient."

Burnett said the judge said Pickton's trial would likely be before a jury and caution was required.

He said his understanding was that while in camera the Crown would be outlining its theory of the case and how the defence would respond.

He said he argued before Dohm that that information would be coming out anyway at the preliminary hearing beginning next week, at which the media would hear the Crown's case but be subject to a publication ban.

 Copyright  2002 Canadian Press

Courtesy of The Canadian Press and



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Updated: August 21, 2016