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B.C. government defends televising Stanley Cup riot trials

Riot police walk in the street on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver. Vancouver broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Rich Lam/2011 Getty Images

B.C.'s Attorney-General, defending the government's bid to televise the trials of those accused in the Stanley Cup riot, says it will have little impact on the court system because the cases represent only 0.1 per cent of prosecutors' annual load.

In a column released by her office Thursday, Shirley Bond appeared to be responding to suggestions that the bid by Crown counsel to televise the trials will jam up the court system.

She writes that the criminal-justice branch last year concluded prosecutions involving 68,000 accused.

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"Clearly other cases will continue to move through the court system while these prosecutions are underway," she writes. "We believe that the public wants transparency when dealing with those charged in the matters surrounding the Vancouver riot."

In the Throne Speech in October, the B.C. Liberal government said it would direct Crown counsel to apply to televise the trials of accused in the riots. At first, the Crown protested, but has gone along with the request on orders from Ms. Bond.

So far, charges have been recommended against 80 people, and the first eight accused were in court last week. In each case, the Crown tabled an application to televise the proceedings.

It will be up to judges to rule on the applications. All parties would have to consent to cameras, and some defense lawyers, speaking generally about the issue, have noted it would be unlikely for any lawyer to agree to such a request.

"Why would a defense counsel want to have their client forever video-emblazoned as an accused rioter?" said Ravi Hira, a criminal defense lawyer in Vancouver who is not defending any accused rioters.

Mr. Hira said he doubted the media could afford to have cameras in courts for all the proceedings in any case. He also noted that, even without being televised, the trials will get intense media coverage.

Ms. Bond, in her column, acknowledges that some critics have deemed the effort to be some form of public shaming, but argues that broadcasting the trials will maintain confidence in the justice system and that each accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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"At the same time, the residents of our province, and especially those who live and work in Vancouver, expect some form of accountability for those who wantonly and senselessly destroyed property and, in some cases, assaulted their fellow citizens."

Ms. Bond notes that the recent court hearing in B.C. Supreme Court on a polygamy reference was televised in a manner satisfactory to all parties.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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