Keith Fraser (Vancouver Province) – Two more lawyers for Mounties charged with offences in connection with the Surrey Six murder investigation on Monday withdrew from the case, putting the trial date in jeopardy.
Michael Bolton, a lawyer for Cpl. Paul Johnston, told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson had not made a decision on whether to provide legal funding for his client.
Bolton said his client’s legal bills were paid for initially under a policy that provides for such funding for federal employees charged with criminal offences, but several months ago funding was cut off.
“It’s put counsel in a difficult situation. I ask that I be able to withdraw.”
Bolton said his client has been told he does not qualify for legal aid and it was premature to make an application for government legal funding.
Michael Klein, a lawyer for Sgt. David Attew, said he was in the same position as Bolton and asked to withdraw. He said his client is also likely to be rejected for legal aid.
Justice Silverman agreed to the withdrawal from the case of Bolton and Klein.
The judge added that he didn’t know Paulson but said it would be helpful if Canada’s top RCMP officer could be advised that a decision was needed soon.
“The trial date is already in jeopardy, there’s no question about this,” he added.
The trial had been set to open in September 2013, but that date is looking increasingly unlikely.
Last month, two other lawyers, David Crossin and Greg DelBigio, had withdrawn from the case due to the RCMP’s failure to provide legal funding.
The RCMP could not be reached for comment Monday.
But previously the RCMP has said there are three basic criteria for eligibilty for considering Crown servants for legal assistance.
The criteria are whether the Crown servants, in this case RCMP officers, acted in good faith, did not act against the interests of the Crown and acted within the scope of their duties or course of employment regarding the allegations.
Attew faces six counts, including claiming false expenses, falsifying overtime claims and compromising the safety of a witness.
Johnston and Cpl. Danny Michaud face four and three charges, respectively, including breach of trust, obstruction of justice and attempting to mislead investigators from the Ontario Provincial Police.
Sgt. Derek Brassington is charged with seven offences, including breach of trust , fraud, obstruction of justice and compromising the safety of a witness, identified only as Jane Doe.
It’s not the only high-profile case involving RCMP that is in jeopardy due to delays in legal funding.
Last month, it was revealed that the four Mounties charged with perjuring themselves at the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski were also having trouble getting funding from the RCMP.
The first of four separate trials in the Dziekanski case was to have begun earlier this month but has been delayed until April.