VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
U.S. report on Pickton Checked by Police
The Vancouver Sun
Friday, February 7, 2003
The RCMP is reviewing a news article about Robert (Willy) Pickton that was broadcast by an American news station and published on its Web site.
At issue is whether the story would be in contempt of the B.C. court that is currently conducting a preliminary inquiry into 15 first-degree murder charges against Pickton.
A publication ban prohibits broadcast or publication of any evidence from the preliminary hearing. In addition, publishing or broadcasting prejudicial information that is not evidence about an accused person during court proceedings can amount to contempt of court in Canada.
Constable Catherine Galliford, who speaks for the joint RCMP-Vancouver police missing women's task force, said she read the Web site publication early Wednesday.
The American story quotes a former sex trade worker and drug addict who claims to have known Pickton and been at his farm in the fall of 2001.
The U.S. story also claims the woman has not yet contacted police or Crown prosecutors in the Pickton case because she wants to first complete a recovery program for her addictions.
Galliford is monitoring media outlets to see whether any coverage of the Pickton case breaches the publication ban or is in contempt of court.
Concerns about Pickton's right to a fair trial and prejudicing potential jurors in the high-profile case have been repeatedly raised by Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie.
Ritchie's concerns were so great that in November, he applied to close Pickton's preliminary hearing to the public, including victims' families and the media.
Port Coquitlam provincial court Judge David Stone said that while he did not want to close the courtroom completely, he would kick out journalists and media agencies that jeopardized Pickton's right to a fair trial.
Galliford said police have established a protocol to deal with any potential breaches of the ban or contempt.
"We are aware of the content of that story," she said Thursday of the U.S. news report.
So far, media outlets accused of breaching the ban have been warned by Stone and police.
Some Seattle television stations have attempted to block their Pickton stories from Canadian cable subscribers, but the same stories then appear on their Web sites, accessible from anywhere.
Lawyer Barry Gibson, who represents The Vancouver Sun, said it would be very difficult for police to prosecute a foreign Internet server for contempt of court in Canada.
"So far as I know, there is no precedent for an American Web site being prosecuted in Canada for contempt of court," Gibson said.
"You can broaden that to say any Web site outside of Canada."
Gibson said that if the television station did broadcast through cable into Canada, there would be a greater chance of a prosecution.
Updated: August 21, 2016