Judge steps down in B.C. corruption trial

Rod Mickleburgh
Globe and Mail Update
Last updated on Monday, Aug. 17, 2009 05:54PM EDT

Judge Elizabeth Bennett is stepping down as the trial judge in the long-running political corruption trial involving former executive assistants to provincial Liberal cabinet ministers.

Judge Bennett was appointed the B.C. Court of Appeal earlier this year and told lawyers Monday that she cannot handle both obligations, with the corruption case expected to last at least another year.

She said she did not believe the fair trial rights of the defendants would be jeopardized by the appointment of a new trial judge.

“We’re disappointed to lose our trial judge after three-and-a-half years but it’s not an unexpected result and we’ll move on,” Michael Bolton, Dave Basi’s lawyer, said outside court.

“Her familiarity with the case was extremely good and there’s always the issue of re-educating a new judge on the issues.”

Mr. Bolton rejected any suggestion the defence’s stream of disclosure applications was responsible for the case dragging on almost six years since police first raided legislature offices in December 2003.

“The story of this case is the failure of disclosure and the need to ensure that all the material is gathered so that the accused can get a fair trial,” he said.

“That process has taken a lot longer than we expected.”

Mr. Bolton said defence disclosure requests continue to yield documents that are likely relevant and should have been available from the beginning.

The formal trial of Dave Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi on charges of fraud and breach of trust has yet to begin – proceedings so far have been taken up by lengthy arguments over disclosure of documents.

With a report from The Canadian Press


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