Constitutional arguments in the case of Winston Blackmore, a polygamous leader near Creston, B.C., are underway in Cranbrook Supreme Court. Trevor Crawley photo

Bountiful polygamist believed he couldn’t be prosecuted: lawyer

Winston Blackmore’s lawyer says Blackmore did not believe he could be prosecuted

The lawyer for a British Columbia man found guilty of marrying two dozen women says his client believed he could not be prosecuted for polygamy.

Winston Blackmore’s attorney, Blaire Suffredine, was in B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook on Wednesday, arguing that a provincial attorney general in the early 1990s issued a statement that said charging an individual with polygamy would breach their charter rights.

“His statement, that this is the law and this is what we will enforce and this is what we won’t enforce … is a clear statement that everyone in British Columbia, including Mr. Blackmore, can rely on,” Suffredine said.

The statement followed an RCMP investigation in Bountiful, B.C., where the court has heard residents follow the tenants of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a sect that condones plural or “celestial” marriage.

Related: Winston Blackmore’s appeal of polygamy charge underway

Blackmore, a leader in the small community, was found guilty earlier this year of one count of polygamy after the court heard he had married 24 women, including three who were 15 years old at the time.

His co-accused, James Oler, was found guilty of having five wives.

Blackmore is asking for a stay of the proceedings and an exemption from prosecution based on his religious beliefs. If he is convicted, Blackmore is asking for an absolute discharge.

The convictions have not be entered pending the outcome of the constitutional arguments.

Related: Winston Blackmore and James Oler found guilty of polygamy in landmark B.C. trial

Suffredine argued on Wednesday that Blackmore’s unions were never legal marriages, but common-law relationships sanctioned by Blackmore’s religious beliefs, which carry no legal weight.

“Mr. Blackmore believes his actions were lawful, so he can’t possibly have the intent to commit a crime,” Suffredine said. “He testified to this, that the ceremonies were common-law unions, and he understood that to be legal.”

Closing arguments in the case are expected to be heard on Thursday.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

UPDATE: Fire above Sparwood no threat to community

Mayor David Wilks reported it may be due to an exposed coal seam

Conservative opposition critic tours through Kootenay riding on listening tour

Pierre Poilievre, the Tory finance critic, gathering local feedback on pandemic supports, recovery issues

EKC makes $5,000 donation to Elk Valley ultrasound campaign

The EKC challenged other businesses to help the campaign hit its $300,000 target

City of Fernie to extend pilot snow removal program

Councillors voted unanimously on Sep. 17 to extend the program due to a lack of data points and disruption due to the pandemic

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read