Premier wants riot trials broadcast

Attorney General Shirley Bond has ordered Crown prosecutors to ask judges to allow TV and radio coverage of court proceedings for those accused of participating in the Stanley Cup riot in June. But even if it happens, it will be highly restricted.

Hockey fans gather around a burning trash can in the early hours of the Stanley Cup riot in downtown Vancouver June 15.

VICTORIA – Attorney General Shirley Bond has ordered Crown prosecutors to ask judges to allow TV and radio coverage of court proceedings for those accused of participating in the Stanley Cup riot in June.

The vow was made in the throne speech Monday, and Premier Christy Clark elaborated on it in a news conference after the speech.

“When it comes to the Stanley Cup riots, those guys had no problem doing their crimes quite in public, with all kinds of people taking pictures and doing videos all around them, so I think they should have no problem being tried in public either,” Clark said.

A spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch initially said Crown prosecutors are opposed to broadcasting criminal proceedings. Bond said Tuesday she has signed an order directing them to seek permission to broadcast, with charges expected to be laid this month against dozens of suspects.

Radio and TV are only allowed in courts with the permission of the trial judge, and even if that is granted, coverage is restricted by a long list of rules. They include a broadcast delay until at least two hours after the court session has ended, and the ability of “any witness, counsel or other participant in the proceedings who objects to being identified pictorially or by voice” to avoid being recorded.

Bond rejected the suggestion that broadcasting riot cases is designed to shame the participants.

“I don’t think it’s about public shaming at all,” Bond said. “I think it’s about an event that impacted all of British Columbia and beyond. And I think there is a public interest in ensuring that this is a transparent, open process.”

NDP justice critic Leonard Krog said the government’s call for televised prosecution is a gimmick to divert public attention from the overburdened court system, which has seen more serious cases than drunken vandalism dismissed due to delays.

“I don’t suspect that judges are going to be interested in having cameras in courtrooms to deal with what are often minor offences,” Krog said.

He also criticized the proposal in Monday’s throne speech to deal with backlogged courts by allowing retired judges to come back and work part-time. Trials are often adjourned for weeks or months due to availability of witnesses or other delays, and a part-time judge may not be available when needed, he said.

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