Winston Blackmore, a polygamous leader associated with Bountiful, near Creston, has finished arguing his charter challenge application in Cranbrook Supreme Court. (Townsman file photo)

Blackmore took ‘calculated’ risk: Crown

Polygamous leader should have pursued legal validation, not assurances from government officals.

Crown lawyers argue that a fundamentalist Mormon leader should have relied on legal precedent instead of public statements from the provincial government for clarity on Canada’s criminal polygamy laws.

Winston Blackmore, who was found guilty of practicing polygamy in July, has applied for relief from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, arguing that his rights are being violated by criminal prosecution.

Blackmore has been practicing polygamy with 24 women between 1990 and 2014, according to his indictment. Jim Oler, a co-accused, was also found guilty of practicing polygamy with five women between 1993 and 2009.

Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor who approved the charges and is leading the case for the Crown, says that Blackmore was always at risk of prosecution even though the polygamy law — Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code — has been constitutionally vague in the past.

Prosecutors have the discretion, based on the evidence, to approved criminal charges, Wilson said.

“We say that the applicant took a calculated risk when he engaged in activity that was prohibited by the Criminal Code,” Wilson said. “That section applied, at all times, relevant to this case, and it still does and it applies to all citizens of Canada.”

Blackmore’s charter challenge alleges that he believed there would be no attempt to prosecute him for polygamy after an investigation in the early 1990s because officials within the Attorney General’s office believed charging someone under Section 293 would be unconstitutional.

Blackmore’s application relies on a news release published in 1992 declaring those opinions as validation that he would not be prosecuted for polygamy.

However, Wilson says that there needed to be a legal declaration from the courts, not a government official.

“It’s clear, the Criminal Justice Branch cannot rule on Section 293,” said Wilson. “It can opine on it and they did, [but] they can’t rule on it. If the branch wants a ruling whether this section or that section is constitutional, they come here [Supreme Court] and ask for it.”

Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, argued that Oler should not be prosecuted for the same reason as Blackmore, that he was led to believe through statements from the Attorney General, that he would not be prosecuted for polygamy.

“Given various comments from and on behalf of the Attorney General of BC, his lack of concern regarding being prosecuted for polygamy is completely understandable and justifiable,” said Doyle.

The constitutionality of Section 293 was legally addressed in 2011 in a reference case in BC Supreme Court, as Justice Robert Bauman ruled that it is not unconstitutional to charge someone with polygamy.

“The release of the polygamy reference was a sea change in the legal landscape,” said Wilson. “Nothing could have been more significant to a charging decision, in the circumstances of this case, than that.”

Both Blackmore and Oler were found guilty following their trial in April, however, a conviction hasn’t been formally recorded until the charter challenge issue is settled.

Just Posted

City of Fernie pitches $80m multi-purpose community centre

Council opts for bigger design and two grant funding streams after hour-long debate

Fernie hosts Kootenay Cup cross country skiing races

Race series draws skiers from across East Kootenay and as far as Scotland to Fernie

Sparwood liveability study to start this month

Study to inform Elkview coal mine expansion, District of Sparwood planning

Fernie trails expert releases hiking guide

Writing a book about one of his favourite things just felt natural… Continue reading

Fernie vs. Kimberley draws sellout crowd

Division rivals tie at Fernie Memorial Arena, Friday night

VIDEO: Car flies across median, flips over edge of B.C. overpass

Dash cam footage shows vehicle speeding across Brunette Avenue overpass in Coquitlam

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

Millennial Money: Don’t let Instagram envy get you into debt

A full 48 per cent of U.S. households have credit card debt

Jury debates fate of man accused of killing 12-year-old B.C. girl 40 years ago

Police allege Garry Handlen told a cop how he abducted, sexually assaulted and strangled Monica Jack in May 1978

Most Read