News Local

Crown urged to have cameras for riot trials

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

B.C. Solicitor General Shirley Bond directed Crown prosecutors to advocate placing cameras and recorders in Stanley Cup riot trials Tuesday, but provincial Crown prosecutors fear a delay to what many consider overdue justice.

Samiran Lakshman, B.C. Crown Counsel Association president, slammed the request, saying cameras will have a "very negative effect" on the prosecution.

"If you put the prospect of being forever recorded in video on the six o'clock news, in addition to the prospect of coming to court, it's only going to reduce the number of people that will come and testify," he said. "It will have an effect of scaring away people."

Lakshman said witnesses and rioters may be reluctant to provide consent to appear before cameras, particularly after the hounding of people whose faces were plastered on the web in the riot's aftermath.

"Once things are captured on television, it could appear very quickly on YouTube. Nobody wants their testimony to be captured on YouTube," he added.

Vancouver defence lawyer Eric Gottardi, however, said the government "agenda" could prove favourable for accused rioters.

"It gives the defence counsel a new tool for their toolbox to make a motion in the trial that some of this interference on the part of the executive branch of the government was unfair," he said. "The government has created an issue now that the defence counsel can raise that didn't exist two days ago."

In a statement Monday, Chief Justice Robert Bauman said applications to put cameras in court are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and require the consent of everyone who's captured on coverage.

"Although proceedings in the Supreme Court have been televised from time to time, (most recently in the polygamy case currently before the court), the decision as to whether . a particular proceeding may be televised is for the presiding judge," he said.