VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Judge agrees to adjourn Pickton hearing six to eight weeks
Defence requests time to prepare after reaching agreement for funding
Saturday, November 09, 2002
Families of Vancouver's missing women will have to wait six to eight weeks before the preliminary hearing for accused serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton begins.
Port Coquitlam Provincial Court Judge David Stone agreed Friday to adjourn the hearing, scheduled to start Nov. 12, so Pickton's newly financed defence team can have adequate time to prepare.
Stone said he was encouraged to hear that Pickton's lead lawyer, Peter Ritchie, has reached an agreement in principle with the B.C. government for defence funding.
In requesting the adjournment, Ritchie said he and his new legal team will be in a better position to make admissions on non-contentious issues if they have adequate time to prepare.
"We want to do it quickly without going so fast that we have people unprepared," Ritchie told Stone. "I'm not seeking a lengthy adjournment. In fact a lengthy adjournment would conflict with Mr. Pickton's instructions in this case."
Stone accepted Ritchie's commitment to bring forward motions regarding disclosure of evidence and a ban on publication before the preliminary hearing, which will likely start in January.
Stone said that while it appears the parties are delaying the hearing, "we would ultimately be speeding up the process."
No family members of Vancouver's 63 missing women, including 15 alleged to have been killed, were present in court Friday. Pickton appeared on a video monitor.
Stone said he wants the 53-year-old Pickton to appear in person Nov. 20, when Ritchie will provide a progress report on defence preparations, which should lead to a firm date being set for the hearing.
Crown prosecutor Mike Petrie, who earlier in the week opposed any delay in the preliminary hearing, said Friday that he learned some information through the Supreme Court proceedings that softened his position.
"Essentially I am trying to balance the interests of the accused to have a fair trial with the interests of the public," Petrie told Stone.
On Friday morning, Ritchie appeared in B.C. Supreme Court to inform Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm that a deal had been reached with the government late Thursday. Dohm had been mediating between the parties throughout the week.
Outside provincial court Friday afternoon, Ritchie would not say how much the government has offered to provide for Pickton's defence team, though he described the amount as "adequate."
"I can tell you that we are considerably relieved that we can get the support of other lawyers as we need them to look at all the information that the Crown has in this case and put together the efforts we have to put together so that the man gets a fair shot before the courts," Ritchie said.
Ritchie said he has a "flexible arrangement" to get other lawyers to come in and specialize where necessary in the case.
"It may be that some lawyers come to help on certain portions of the case and don't stay on the case very long. I expect we will receive considerable contributions from other members of the bar to help us get this case going."
He had been asking for funding for six lawyers at a top rate of $200 an hour, while the government was offering just three at a top rate of $150.
Ritchie also explained to reporters that lawyers are obligated to take difficult cases that attract notoriety.
"Some lawyer is going to have to take this case. Lawyers have a duty not only to their client, but to the courts and to the bar and so lawyers have to take cases sometimes that they don't want to take," Ritchie said.
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016