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Crown not budging on its Riot TV strategy

Ryan Dickinson seen in a frame grab from a video entered into the court record at his pre-sentencing hearing Feb. 14 ,2012. He pleaded guilty to crimes committed during the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots.


With the first Stanley Cup rioter set to be sentenced – far away from the video cameras – the Crown is standing by its Riot TV strategy.

The first and only riot broadcast application was made in the case of Ryan Dickinson. The 20-year-old pleaded guilty last month to one count of participating in a riot and one count of breach of recognizance. His sentencing hearing began Tuesday and a decision is expected Thursday. The Crown wants a jail sentence of at least 15 months, while the defence is calling for no more than 12 months.

The Crown – following through on the government's Throne Speech pledge – pushed for Mr. Dickinson's sentencing to be broadcast. Prosecutors planned to make the same request at all sentencing proceedings and trials related to the June riot.

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Judge Malcolm MacLean, however, dismissed the first application that was made. He said Monday that an amicus – an independent lawyer appointed to assist the courts with issues that the parties otherwise wouldn't address – was needed to assess the effects of cameras on witnesses and court staff, and to provide information on technology and costs.

Judge MacLean's decision prompted questions on why an amicus hadn't been appointed in the first place.

Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Branch, said the Crown believed the application could be handled by a prosecutor alone.

"Going into the proceeding it was the Crown's perspective that the application could be dealt with without the necessity of an amicus being involved," he said Wednesday. "But the court obviously concluded that's something that would have assisted the court. We obviously respect the decision of the court in that regard."

When asked if the Crown made a mistake in its assessment, Mr. MacKenzie said no.

"The court had its own view with respect to the assistance of an amicus and the Crown took a different perspective," he said.

Leonard Krog, the NDP's justice critic, said that, to be fair, he didn't foresee the judge dismissing the application on those grounds. However, he said wanting an amicus was a logical position so all sides were represented.

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Attorney-General Shirley Bond would not agree to be interviewed Wednesday.

Jason Tarnow, a lawyer representing a young woman charged with participating in the riot, said he too was surprised by the call for an amicus. "It never crossed my mind," he said. Mr. Tarnow had been keeping tabs on Mr. Dickinson's case so he could oppose the application when his own client's turn came up.

Premier Christy Clark vowed the morning after the riot to expose those involved to public view. Her government abruptly rescinded the broadcast order Monday night, a few hours after Judge MacLean's decision, despite the fact the first case was not binding on any others. Ms. Clark and Ms. Bond have said it became clear that pursuing the applications would delay cases.

Defence lawyers have made that claim for weeks. Mr. Krog cast doubt on the government's reasoning – he said the order was dropped because it became a political inconvenience.

"It gave them a tiny opening to try and escape further embarrassment," he said.

Mr. Tarnow agreed. "It was amateur hour," he said. "Something horrible happens to our city. The government, who's completely out of touch with our justice system, tries to gain politically off it. It just wasn't an appropriate suggestion."

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