(This column was published in the North Shore News on Sept. 29, 1999)

 

Lawyer's allegations alarming

By Leo Knight

IT'S really beginning to bug me the way criminal defence lawyers are using the media to try to manipulate the cases against their clients before the police investigations are even complete.    

 

Remember David Gibbons blustering about the RCMP's "invasion" of erstwhile Premier Glen Clark's home in the "middle of the night?"  

 

How Gibbons kept a straight face while spouting that nonsense truly attests to his rare acting talent.  

 

Presumably, the logic in fabricating and exaggerating to the media has something to do with putting pressure on the police to deflect their focus on the task at hand. Or perhaps they believe they can somehow stall or stop the process entirely.  

 

What also rankles is the willingness of much of the mainstream media to regurgitate the nonsense as though it actually bore some resemblance to reality.  

 

Take the case dominating the headlines in the past week of the women under investigation because her 18-month-old baby fell from the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Miraculously, the baby survived the 50-metre fall, but that doesn't change the Mounties' need to determine what happened.  

 

The woman's lawyer grabbed headlines last week when, during an impromptu press conference, he accused the RCMP of all manner of despicable acts. He actually used the word "torture" in his bizarre verbal barrage.  

 

As I write this, RCMP brass have not responded to the allegations except to say the investigation is ongoing. And why not? Certainly not because the allegations are true. In general terms, the police of this country are not in the business of torture.  

 

But realistically, the interviewing of any suspect -- and clearly that is what this woman is -- is done with audio and video recorders rolling throughout. Without the audio/video backup, defence counsel and an acquiescent judiciary in this country have made it virtually impossible to get a statement by an accused admitted as evidence in court.  

 

There can be no "torture" at any point in the interview process. There are video cameras in virtually every area of the police station any suspect is in. Not to mention the audio/video recording of the entire interview process. This protects suspects from any abuses by the police, but it also protects the police from the far more common malicious accusations of assault and abuse leveled by the criminal element and their chosen legal representatives.  

 

To ensure I was accurate in this analysis of the comments made by the woman's lawyer, I spoke to some police officers close to the investigation. The reality of the situation is much different from what the lawyer would have the public believe.  

 

First off, I'm not making a determination of this woman's guilt or innocence, but rather taking a cold look at some of the facts in the face of the wild allegations made by her lawyer.  

 

The photographs published last week, taken before and right after whatever happened, show the woman peeking over the rail of the suspension bridge her arms free of the burden of the infant pictured in them seconds earlier.  

 

Now, cops are parents too and can look at things from that point of view. If it were your child this had happened to, would you be peeking over the railing or, more likely, would you be screaming a blue streak in absolute panic?  

 

Would you have walked to the end of the bridge and called your estranged husband, the father of the child, before calling 9-1-1? Is it any wonder the police view the woman as a suspect, not a witness?  

 

Additionally, there is some reason to believe the woman was offering the child up for adoption via the Internet prior to the incident at the suspension bridge. That's why the Mounties seized a computer in the execution of the search warrant at her residence.  

 

They are trying to gather sufficient evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed. That's their job and their inherent responsibility. Part of that job involves the interviewing of suspects.  

 

During the interview process, the woman never once asked about the child. Not once. She only complained about a scratch on her arm. The same scratch the police officer conducting the interview, the so-called torturer, cleaned with antiseptic, gently blew on and put a Band-Aid on. Some torture!  

 

The lawyer can say whatever he wants. But, frankly, his allegations in this case are inflammatory in the extreme.  

 

The police are held to account for their every action. Why then should defence lawyers be allowed to spout their fantasy allegations and the police are required to turn the other cheek.  

 

The police must be allowed to do their job. The RCMP hierarchy must also speak out and defend their officers when the situation merits. To stand mute only adds credibility where there should be none.

 

  -30-

 

 

Primetimecrime current headlines               Columns 1999