Defence lawyer argues accused B.C. polygamist’s fair trial rights violated

Defence wants charge stayed in B.C. polygamy trial

CRANBROOK, B.C. — A lawyer whose client is on trial for polygamy in British Columbia is arguing that evidence in the case was collected amid confusion over the legality of Canada’s laws on plural marriage.

Blair Suffredine is seeking a stay of a polygamy charge against his client, Winston Blackmore, in B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook.

Blackmore, the head of a religious community Bountiful in the southeastern B.C., is accused of marrying 24 women.

Suffredine said in court on Monday that evidence against Blackmore was collected between 1990 and 2011, a period when it was not clear whether laws prohibiting polygamy were unconstitutional.

He is also arguing that Blackmore’s right to a fair trial was violated through an abuse of process.

In 2007, special prosecutor Richard Peck declined to lay charges against Blackmore and James Oler, who also served as a bishop in the fundamentalist community.

Peck instead recommended a constitutional reference case be brought forward to test the criminality of polygamy.

In 2011, the law was upheld in a ruling that determined it didn’t violate religious freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Following years of legal wrangling, a criminal trial for Blackmore and Oler began last month, more than 25 years after RCMP first began investigating allegations that residents of the isolated, religious community were practising plural or “celestial” marriage in the early 1990s.

Blackmore and Oler are each charged with one count of polygamy and the case is being heard by a judge alone.  

Oler is accused of having four wives.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan ruled Monday to allow into evidence statements Oler made to police about his wives.

Investigators met with Oler in October 2005 to get his permission to interview the women during an investigation into alleged sexual exploitation.

Court has heard that Oler admitted to having three wives and said he would set up a time for police to conduct interviews. Since it was a general inquiry and not a formal police interview, it was not recorded.

Donegan ruled that Oler’s knew he was under police scrutiny, but that the statements about his wives were made voluntarily outside of the scope of the sexual exploitation investigation.

Crown counsel in the case has also applied to add a fifth woman to Oler’s polygamy charge, based on his statements to police and marriage records. (Cranbrook Townsman)

Trevor Crawley, Cranbrook Townsman, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Fernie in last stages of cleanup from damages caused by ammonia leak

Community memorial service in the works for 3 victims of Fernie Memorial Arena ammonia leak

Evacuation order rescinded

Residents of nearby homes able to return after six days

WATCH: Steps being made to extract ammonia, say experts

City workers and family members spoke to media today

Evacuation remains in effect for residents near arena

Community pulling together to help those who have been out of their homes for over three days

UPDATED: Hydro lines down near Moyie

Hydro lines affecting traffic on Highway 3 south of Moyie.

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

Ex-employee describes alleged sexual assault by B.C. city councillor

Complainant was a teen during the alleged 1992 incident

Amazon gets 238 proposals for 2nd headquarters

Submissions were due last week. Online retailer has said tax breaks and grants would be factors

Justin Timberlake invited back to Super Bowl halftime show

A ‘wardrobe malfunction’ with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy during his last appearance

A scary box office weekend for everyone but Tyler Perry

‘Boo 2! A Madea Halloween’ scared up a healthy $21.7 million in its first weekend in theatres

Even as long-form census data returns, Statcan readies for day without it

Wednesday’s release is expected to show immigrants making up a larger share of the population

B.C. VIEWS: Horgan fumbles salmon farm threat

Lana Popham falls for anti-aquaculture propaganda

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Most Read