Victims' family members get expenses when Pickton trial starts in January
Sept 25, 2006 - 5:28 pm
VANCOUVER (CP) - When the trial of accused serial killer Robert Pickton goes before a jury in January, the B.C. government will pay the travel and temporary living expenses of family members of victims.
"We are going to provide victims' family members with travel money to attend court," said Susan Dahlin, executive-director of the province's Victims Services Program.
The immediate family members of any of the 26 victims who Pickton is charged with killing will have a place to stay, also paid by the government.
"We put out the offer and it's up to them," said Dahlin.
Earlier this month, Justice James Williams ruled Pickton will face trial on only six counts of first-degree murder.
A trial on the remaining 20 will follow later.
The judge ruled a trial on 26 counts of murder would be too much for jurors to comprehend and would drag the case on needlessly.
Williams ruled the split was necessary in "the interests of justice" and that the evidence in the six cases is "materially different" than in the other 20 cases.
The Victims of Crime Act defines immediate family members and Dahlin said it essentially refers to immediate family members, such as parents, children or siblings.
The family members can choose when they want to attend the trial.
"We'll indicate to them in our travel package how long they can attend and it's up to them to choose the time slots."
Dahlin also said that victims services workers have been in contact with many of the family members in the last four to five months.
Some reports suggested that family members were upset with the judge's decision to split the charges into two trials.
But Dahlin said that was not the case.
"There was only one person who indicated a concern," she said. "I think many people actually felt relieved that the case was going forward. They want to see the case proceed."
While the family members are contacted regularly by victims services workers, there is no formal meeting planned with the families before the jury begins hearing evidence.
In the past four to five months, Dahlin said victims service workers travelled throughout the province and the country to meet with victims' families.
"Since then, some indicated they wanted more contact and some indicated they wanted less contact."
Crown spokesman Stan Lowe reiterated that victims' family members only have to call the Crown with any concerns or problems.
"We're more than happy to meet with them. The opportunity's always there to meet with the Crown and discuss issues."
Mike Petrie, the lead Crown prosecutor in the Pickton case, has said the Crown plans to file a new indictment in the coming weeks charging Pickton with the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.
The other 20 women not included in the judge's six counts are: Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Kerry Koski, Wendy Crawford, Debra Lynne Jones, Tiffany Drew, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Diana Melnick, Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock, Heather Bottomley, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.
The jury pool will be assembled on Dec. 9 - a Saturday - and then broken into smaller groupings. The selection of the 12 jurors and two alternates is to begin Dec. 11.