No scrutiny of police: Lawyer Darrell Roberts says review was 'a failure of major proportions'
BY IAN MULGREW, VANCOUVER SUN NOVEMBER 29, 2013
Lawyer Darrell Roberts has written a stinging legal paper slamming Missing Women inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal's year-old report.
Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press, Vancouver Sun
A respected B.C. lawyer who represented a victim's family at the Missing Women inquiry has produced a stinging legal paper slamming commissioner Wally Oppal's year-old report.
In a presentation Monday to an audience of lawyers and judges - including Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin - Darrell Roberts said the review of the police handling of Robert Pickton's serial killings was a "failure of major proportions."
He said the former attorney general and B.C. Court of Appeal justice failed to address a key element in his 2010 mandate - findings of fact about the conduct of the police investigations.
"Oppal called his report, The Forsaken," Roberts said. "He did the forsaking."
In future, he recommended the Attorney General's office supervise such inquiries to ensure they do what they are intended to do.
"Since all of the missing and murdered women were from Vancouver's Downtown East the Eastside and were picked up while engaged in the sex trade on the east side streets and transported elsewhere (to Pickton's property in Coquitlam), one might have expected that a major focus if not the focus of the inquiry and the commissioner's findings of fact in The Forsaken would be the conduct of the VPD in their police investigations," Roberts said in his 60-page paper.
"However, this is not the case. The commissioner neither made it a major focus of The Forsaken, nor made any findings of fact as to the crime or crimes the VPD investigated or ought to have investigated in the disappearance of the missing women, or of the VPD conduct in relation to such failed investigations."
The Vancouver litigator, who is preparing to argue two separate cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, maintained the $10-million commission was "a huge underachievement."
Roberts contended Oppal accepted without proper scrutiny the police department's internal review prepared by Deputy Chief Doug LePard. "But, the facts, as well as the purpose and main terms of reference in the inquiry order, cries out for the inquiry to address what the VPD did or did not do in Vancouver in investigating the disappearance
and murder of the missing women," he insisted.
Roberts said LePard's evidence was a "mishmash" and his answers "only helpful to show his incompetence."
The lawyer said from 1997 through 2002 - the period of Pickton's killing spree covered by the inquiry - the VPD persistently failed to investigate the kidnapping and murder of the women. He said it failed because its officers, including thenchief constable Terry Blythe, "were ill-informed on the law of kidnapping ... they did not know or recognize how the crime of kidnapping applied to the missing women."
Had they done so, in Roberts' view, a search warrant for the pig farm could have been obtained earlier and damning evidence discovered. The DNA of 33 women was found on the property after police executed a search warrant in Feb. 2002. Pickton claims to have slain 49 women.
During the inquiry, Roberts represented Marion Bryce, mother of Patricia Johnson, who vanished in the spring of 2001 and was almost immediately reported missing.
Her remains were found on the farm and, though Pickton was charged with her murder, Johnson's case was one of 20 stayed last year after the infamous killer exhausted appeals of his six second-degree murder convictions.
Rather than focus on police misconduct, which he acknowledged included "irresponsible failure to act and wilful blindness," Oppal chose to address more systemic issues. In his four-volume report totalling some 1,230 pages last December he made 65 recommendations - most of which have been ignored.
"Thus, there is this dichotomy," Roberts said. "Mr. Oppal as attorney general in the years 2005, 2006, and 2007 approved funding from the province for a reward authorized by the Vancouver Police Board to assist the VPD in the investigation of Vancouver's crimes of kidnapping and murder in the disappearance and murder of the missing women, and Mr. Oppal as commissioner of the inquiry in 2012 failed to make findings of fact as to the failure of the VPD to conduct any investigation at all of Vancouver's crimes of kidnapping and murder in the disappearance and murder of the missing women."
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