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Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson leaves Toronto City Hall after a meeting with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Feb. 10, 2012. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson leaves Toronto City Hall after a meeting with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Feb. 10, 2012. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Riot trials becoming a 'sideshow' Add to ...

The Stanley Cup riot trials might be broadcast – but don't expect Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson to tune in.

Mr. Robertson told The Globe and Mail that broadcasting the court proceedings has become a “sideshow” and the emphasis should instead be on prompt justice.

“If it is delaying the process further, then, yes, it should be backed off on,” Mr. Robertson told the newspaper's editorial board during a visit to Toronto on Friday. “I think the timing is important right now. You've got hundreds of people waiting to be served and I think it's more important to do that than to have trials on TV.”

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Numerous lawyers have said waiting for the broadcasting applications to be heard has slowed their clients' cases. Mr. Robertson's comments came the same day the first of the riot broadcast applications was formally made in court. The case is the only one to bring a guilty plea nearly eight months after the fighting, smashing, and looting that broke out when the hometown hockey team lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Mr. Robertson said that if broadcast orders are granted in any of the cases, he has no intention to tune in, and described the pace of prosecutions as “ridiculously slow.”

“I don't expect to be watching any of it,” he said. “I'd rather see justice served more urgently and I think there'll be plenty of shame based on appropriate sentencing and, you know, people doing their time for trashing our city.”

Premier Christy Clark vowed the morning after the June riot to expose those involved to the public gaze. In October, her government used the Throne Speech to call for public proceedings for anyone charged in connection with the riot.

“When it comes to the Stanley Cup riots, those guys had no problems doing their crimes quite in public with all kinds of people taking pictures and doing videos all around them,” Ms. Clark said at the time. “So I think they should have no problem being tried in public either.”

The Criminal Justice Branch initially resisted the idea. The government overruled the Crown's objections and ordered prosecutors to push forward.

The first person to plead guilty to participating in the riot was Ryan Dickinson. Mr. Dickinson entered his plea last month to one count of participating in a riot and one count of breach of recognizance. As a result, two charges of mischief over $5,000 against him were dropped.

Mr. Dickinson, who opposes the broadcast application in his case, appeared in court on Friday to hear arguments. The babyfaced 20-year-old has been held in custody and was wearing red jail-issued clothing. He had what appeared to be a black eye, which his lawyer declined to explain.

Until Friday, it had been assumed the Crown would ask the provincial court to broadcast proceedings live online. However, prosecutor Trevor Shaw told the judge the video would instead be posted one day after the hearings on the government's website, raising questions about what size audience it would draw.

Judge Malcolm MacLean voiced several concerns about broadcasting Mr. Dickinson's case, more specifically the sentencing hearing set for Tuesday, and appeared unlikely to grant the request. The judge asked what impact cameras would have on any potential character witnesses. He also said the court might need to bring in an amicus to argue on behalf of sheriffs or other court officials whose images could be broadcast. He later asked Mr. Shaw who would cover the broadcasting costs.

Greg DelBigio, Mr. Dickinson's lawyer, argued against the application, as did a lawyer for the B.C. Crown Counsel Association. Richard Peck told the court that Crown prosecutors – who have received increased threats in recent years – would be hesitant to have their images appear online. (Mr. Shaw did not clarify whether he had any concerns for his safety.)

The judge is expected to issue his ruling on Monday. Legal experts have said the first few riot broadcast applications could set a precedent for the hundreds of cases expected to follow.

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