Wednesday, January 28

Victim’s mother calls for new Pickton trial | Vancouver 24 hrs

Victim’s mother calls for new Pickton trial | Vancouver 24 hrs:

The mother of a woman whose DNA and bones were found on Robert Pickton’s property says her daughter’s remains should result in another murder charge for the convicted serial killer.
In January 1997, Michele Pineault’s daughter Stephanie Lane disappeared. It would be many years later when her family learned some of her skeletal remains were found on Pickton’s farm.
Pickton was first charged with killing 26 women, but was later convicted of six murders. Twenty charges were stayed and an additional six cases, including Lane’s, never resulted in charges.
In 2003, Pineault was told her daughter’s DNA, from bodily fluid, was found on the Pickton farm in a deep freezer, and if more of her daughter’s remains were found, Pickton would face a murder charge.
But it wasn’t until last August when the BC Coroners Service informed Pineault they had Lane’s partial skeletal remains, which had been kept in storage. The RCMP had them until 2010, when it was then turned over to the coroner’s office. Last September, the remains were handed over to Pineault.
“I was told that they found two pieces of my daughter’s vertebrae on the farm,” she said. “It remained in a storage locker, and the only explanation was — none.
“The only thing they could say was, ‘It was an oversight.’”
Pineault is calling on the B.C. Coroners Service to re-examine the remains to confirm the identity of the bones, for the police and Crown prosecutors to reopen the case and charge Pickton with her daughter’s death.
“I want justice for my daughter and grandson who’s lived his entire life without a mother,” she said. “He’ll be 19 in April. He was eight months old when she was missing.”
In the past, Crown prosecutors said there’s no plans to put Pickton back on trial as he’s already serving a maximum sentence.
Grand Chief Steward Phillip, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said it’s a “reflection on the colossal failure of the (Wally) Oppal Missing Women’s Inquiry.”
“(This) is further evidence of the need for a national inquiry to address all the dimensions of this ongoing national disgrace,” he said. “We’re absolutely appalled at the BC Coroners Service callous way of describing this as merely an ‘oversight.’”
However, the coroners service said Lane’s remains were fully identified as part of the original police investigation, and does not represent new evidence.
“The sole issue is the unfortunate delay in returning the remains to the family of Ms. Lane, following completion of the criminal proceedings against Mr. Pickton,” the statement read.
The coroners service said it cannot explain the delay as the staff members involved no longer work for the organization.

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Tuesday, January 6

Fallout from Pickton case leads to better support for vulnerable victims

Policy change encourages more witnesses, victims to testify in court


In an artist’s rendering, Gina Houston, left, was the Crown’s first star witness in the trial of serial killer Robert Pickton, right.


There will be more support for vulnerable victims and witnesses at criminal trials under new provincial rules that respond to recommendations from the 2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

One of the key recommendations from the hefty inquiry report, written by former attorney general Wally Oppal, was for B.C.’s criminal justice system to be less alienating, especially for women who work in the sex trade.

Oppal heard from dozens of witnesses at the inquiry, called to examine the police investigation into Vancouver’s missing women and the prosecution of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton in 2007.

More than two years after the release of his report, which made 65 recommendations for change, the criminal justice branch announced policy changes Tuesday designed to encourage more vulnerable people to participate in trials.

“Crown Counsel should keep in mind that vulnerable victims and witnesses may be particularly subject to pressure, intimidation, and interference,” the new policy acknowledges.

Vulnerability can be influenced by a person’s job, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental health, substance use, language, legal status, poverty and history of abuse, the new policy states.

The attorney general now promises prosecutors, dealing with vulnerable people, will:

• be assigned early to files, have specialized training, provide regular updates, try to get early trial dates, and stay with the case from start to finish;

• pursue publication bans, protective orders and accommodations such as testifying by video or behind a screen when applicable;

• work with vulnerable people’s social supports to try to overcome their reluctance to testify;

• ask for warrants that protect the vulnerable victims/witnesses when an accused is released.

In an interview, Oppal said the changes are necessary because the justice system is very adversarial, with one side challenging the testimony of the other.

“I think all of us in the system need to be more sensitive to victims,” said Oppal, a former B.C. Appeal Court justice. “If the system is going to have any credibility then it has to take into account the effects of the crime on the victim, and particularly the effects on vulnerable women.”

Oppal noted in his report that a vulnerable person’s evidence should not be devalued, as it was in the case of an important Pickton witness — a drug-addicted sex-trade worker — who the Crown dismissed as too unstable.

Many vulnerable women are reluctant to testify, often due to fear for their safety, but some of these new changes will help, said Kate Gibson, executive director of WISH, a Vancouver drop-in centre for sex-trade workers.

“It is hard to keep going back (to the prosecutor’s office) and meeting somebody new every time, but what this focuses on is keeping the file with the same Crown counsel from the beginning,” she said.

“And it is important to have Crown counsel with experience in the area of vulnerable people, and a view of the world that is compassionate.”

Gibson wished, though, that the new policy was more specific about protecting women engaged in the sex trade, as they work in a “criminalized environment.”

Indeed, a lawyer who testified at the inquiry said Crown policy should address “the unique vulnerability of sex-trade workers and the inordinate incidence of violence directed toward them.”

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