It was a moment that, for many Vancouverites, was six months in the making.
The first few of the alleged Stanley Cup rioters appeared in court on Wednesday and some of them – when confronted by a gauntlet of TV cameras – offered apologies.
“I love this city very much,” said Spencer Kirkwood, 25, of Vancouver. “What happened, I can’t change, and I really wish I could.”
Jeffrey Post, 20, of Maple Ridge, also offered a mea culpa.
“I’m remorseful for what I did, and I’m dealing with the police,” he said.
Eight of the alleged rioters had appearances in Vancouver Provincial Court. All eight are charged with one count of participating in a riot and at least one additional charge, such as break and enter or mischief.
The June 15 riot – the worst rampage of violence in B.C. history – left millions of dollars in damage. At least 160 people were injured in the mayhem that ensued after the hometown Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins.
There was a media circus outside the courthouse Wednesday, as reporters and cameramen chased after those connected to the riot.
Inside, it was business as usual. The riot cases were intermingled with the regular business of the court. Anyone dropping in would have had little indication riot cases were on the docket.
None of the accused entered pleas.
However, David Baker, lawyer for 20-year-old Sophie Laboissonnière of Richmond, said he plans to enter a plea for his client. Her next hearing is set for Jan. 19.
Mr. Baker would not confirm he was entering a guilty plea. “I’m not sure what I am doing,” he told reporters, adding he had made no decision.
He said his client is very much looking forward to having her legal situation resolved. He said it’s been a challenge “dealing with the exposure” associated with the allegations.
Vancouver police have been much criticized for the pace of their investigation. The department forwarded 60 files to the Crown in late October and the first charges weren’t laid until last month. Twenty-seven people have been charged so far.
The force has said it expects to charge between 500 to 700 in the riot.
That claim has led legal experts to express concern about the impact the volume of cases will have on an already overloaded provincial court system. Dozens of cases have been thrown out across the province this year because of lengthy delays.
Premier Christy Clark has also vowed to have the riot cases televised.
During a hearing for Ryan Dickinson, 20, of Coquitlam, the Crown notified the court it will be applying to broadcast the proceedings.
Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch, wouldn’t comment on whether going through broadcast applications for each of the cases will slow down the process even more.
“At this point, I don’t want to speculate or prejudge how long the application process is going to take,” he said. “The approach the branch is taking is that we will have designated Crown appearing on the applications. They won’t be members of the riot prosecution team. That will enable the riot prosecution team to continue to focus on the substantive aspects of the case.”
With a report from The Canadian Press