Jun 1, 2016

Accused polygamist Winston Blackmore loses court appeal

The Province
JUNE 1, 2016

VANCOUVER — B.C.’s highest court has upheld the appointment of special prosecutor Peter Wilson and the decision by Wilson to file polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore.

Wilson, the third special prosecutor appointed in the case, decided in August 2014 to file charges against Blackmore, a leader of the Bountiful community in southeastern B.C.

Blackmore responded by filing a petition in B.C. Supreme Court challenging the appointment. Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen upheld the appointment.

Blackmore then appealed Cullen’s decision, challenging the process by which Wilson was appointed. He also argued that the decision not to lay charges by Richard Peck, the first special prosecutor appointed, was final.

But in a ruling posted online Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected Blackmore’s arguments.

In his reasons for judgment, Justice David Frankel concluded that Wilson’s mandate was the result of the assistant deputy attorney general’s independent decision, made in the public interest.

Frankel found that the factual and legal matrix had changed since Peck made his decision in 2007, leaving it open for Wilson to be appointed in the case.

In particular, Frankel noted that the appointment was made in the wake of a comprehensive review of Canada’s polygamy laws by the B.C. Supreme Court, which resulted in the laws being upheld.

His decision to uphold the charges and the appointment of Wilson was agreed to by Justices Pamela Kirkpatrick and John Savage.

Joseph Arvay, a lawyer representing Blackmore, said in an email he had no comment on the ruling and had made no decision as to whether an appeal will be launched.

Court heard that allegations first surfaced in the early 1990s that individuals were practising polygamy in the small community of Bountiful, near Creston.

RCMP conducted an investigation and forwarded a report to Crown counsel, with the Crown declining to approve charges. Further allegations were investigated in the early 2000s, with the result that once again charges were not laid by the Crown.

Peck was appointed in 2007 and decided not to file charges, expressing a preference that a ruling on the constitutional validity of polygamy laws be obtained.

The following year, Terrence Robertson was appointed as the second special prosecutor. In January 2009, Robertson approved charges against Blackmore, who went to court and challenged that decision. The B.C. Supreme Court found the attorney-general had no jurisdiction to appoint Robertson and quashed that appointment and his decision to approve charges.



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