column was published in the
Shore News on
Feb. 18, 1998)
By Leo Knight
final chapter in the William Bennest debacle has now been
written, ironically by one of the main characters.
Thursday, the attorney general's office released a review of the
sweetheart deal Bennest received in his child pornography/sex
the former Burnaby elementary school teacher arrested by
Vancouver Police in September 1996, walked away from the justice
system a free man in October 1997 after a plea bargain
arrangement conducted in a pre-arranged secret lunch time
sitting of Judge Bill Kitchen's court.
the public outcry the attorney general announced an appeal of
the conditional sentence received by Bennest. I argued at the
time that the AG needed to review how and why the deal was done,
simply appealing the sentence only perpetuated the deal itself.
the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Ernie Quantz, was
delegated to review the case. But instead of having someone
independent conduct the review, he requested regional Crown
counsel Austin Cullen report on the matter.
the deal was approved by Cullen's office, if not Cullen himself,
this seems a little like having Bill Clinton investigate
allegations of sexual impropriety against the President of the
Cullen's report, released last week, not only exonerated his
office, as was entirely predictable, but brilliantly managed to
taint the police involved in the investigation for leaking
"discredited and unreliable information to the media
distorting the nature and strength of the case against Bennest."
effect of this broadside by Cullen will keep the cops diving for
cover trying to protect their careers from the vindictive
officials responsible for the ultimate protection of Bennest,
essentially silencing any further criticism from within.
police officers involved in this investigation, at least at the
field level, only began privately complaining after the deal was
done and they realized they were actually victims of an
elaborate deception crafted by the Crown to ensure the deal with
Bennest was done in secret, lest the nasty media tell the public
about their sordid actions.
news of the arrest broke, the police, through their official
spokesman, Anne Drennan and the inspector in charge of the vice
squad, Ken Doern, were very circumspect about the information
they released to the media.
fact, Doern went out of his way to write a letter to the Burnaby
school board on Sept. 9, several days after the arrest of
Bennest, to assure the board.
Doern, "at this time there is no concrete evidence that
William Bennest physically or sexually touched or abused any
student of Clinton elementary school."
deliberately kept from the board the fact that one of the
students, a 12-year-old boy, had been the subject of Bennest's
sick sexual fantasies and had been videotaped by his principal
in a suggestive manner. The result of this omission was extreme
anger by members of the board and parents of Clinton students
when the full facts became known.
reviewing Cullen's report, one notes a singularly glaring
omission. The report visits the legal reasoning employed by the
Crown in agreeing to the deal.
I would argue vociferously against some of these points, the
three-page report ignores entirely the whole disgusting
machinations of the Crown to keep the deal secret.
was this attempt at secrecy that caused much of the protest and
the very reason some police officers may have spoken to the
media. Yet, there's nary a word about any of this in Cullen's
are also apparent untruths in the report. Cullen states in his
report on several occasions the "police investigators
agreed with the Crown's decision to stay this charge." I
could be wrong, but I have been told that the only police
officer consulted by the Crown was Doern. This was told to me by
attempts to suggest that the primary investigators were
consulted on the deal. If this is true, then why were those same
investigators denotified for their Crown pre-trial interviews,
only to be re-scheduled for three days after the deal was done
and the plea bargain arranged? Surely, if they were consulted
then they would have been aware of the deal and not showed up
blindly for their interview only to be told "thanks for
coming. You can go now."
also goes to great lengths to discredit the original informant
in the case, identified in the report as "John Doe
the man is a street prostitute. True, there may have been some
inconsistencies in his evidence. He was relying on memories
fogged through drugs provided by Bennest over several years.
What the heck did ya expect?
central to this issue is that he provided information which was
the basis for the search warrant executed by the police.
the informant said would be located by the police was found by
police. Doesn't this, in itself, provide the corroboration
Cullen says in his report was needed to substantiate the
deal still reeks. The smell is now overpowering with this thinly
disguised, vindictive report which seems to scream "cover
up." In doing this they have targetted the only people who
can claim the moral high ground in this case: the police who
conducted the investigation.
Personally, I'm disgusted. Not surprised though. Just disgusted.