VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Delay angers Pickton lawyer
Will seek to postpone start of case over funding dispute
Saturday, November 2, 2002
VANCOUVER 覧 A lawyer for accused serial killer Robert William Pickton blames the British Columbia government's "parsimonious bean-counting approach" to legal funding for an expected lengthy delay in the start of the case.
Peter Ritchie said yesterday that he will ask for a one-week adjournment in provincial court on Monday to Pickton's preliminary hearing on 15 first-degree murder charges so he can argue in B.C. Supreme Court for more money to defend the suburban pig farmer.
But Ritchie 覧 who resigned two weeks ago over the funding dispute, but is prepared to resume the defence if an agreement can be reached 覧 said a longer delay is likely.
"This should have been resolved months ago but the parsimonious bean-counting approach that the government has taken to try to resolve these things has resulted in delay," Ritchie told reporters.
"Hopefully the delay won't be too long, but I expect it's going to be some time."
Pickton, 52, is accused of killing 15 women 覧 predominantly drug addicts and prostitutes 覧 who have disappeared from Vancouver's downtown eastside since 1996.
They are among 63 women listed as missing as far back as the late 1970s from the neighbourhood.
Pickton, who co-owns with his siblings the pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam that has been the focus of an intensive police search for nine months, says he cannot afford to fund his defence despite the fact the family made money from recent sales of property.
The province has said it will offer to pay Pickton's legal bills but not until it completes an audit of his finances.
In the meantime, it has proposed an interim deal that would pay for three senior lawyers, a junior counsel and 500 hours of investigators' time, which government lawyer George Copley called "adequate defence, but not Cadillac defence."
If Ritchie, who said the offer is just half the complement he needs, is unwilling to take on the case, then Copley said the government will help Pickton find another defence team.
Ritchie, who said his firm has done more than 700 hours of work on the case, but has been paid for just 90, called that suggestion "preposterous" and "ridiculous."
"They obviously have put in millions and millions of dollars for the prosecution and they're putting a pittance in so that this can be a fair trial," Ritchie told reporters.
Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm yesterday agreed that on Monday afternoon he will begin to hear an application by Ritchie for a stay of the charges against Pickton unless the government agrees to fund the defence to a level it deems adequate for a fair trial.
Dohm, who said he was "terribly disappointed that an amicable solution has not been arrived at," agreed to Ritchie's request to temporarily clear the court of the media and all members of the public for part of the hearing if potential evidence to the case is raised.
Dohm also warned the provincial government that such a complex, high-profile case "is probably not the one to set benchmarks" on legal aid.
Ritchie said Pickton, who has begun reviewing boxes of evidence in the case in preparation for conducting his own defence, is unhappy about a potential delay.
"Remember, he's the one whose sitting in jail, anxious for many months to get this thing going," Ritchie said of his client, who was arrested in late February.
"So, he's not very happy that there are adjournments. He wants this trial to start."
Updated: August 21, 2016