(This column was published in the North Shore News on Sept. 4, 2002)


Clark charges belonged in court

 By Leo Knight

ON the night that former premier Glen Clark was acquitted by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett, national icon and CTV news anchor Lloyd Robertson asked whether this might signal a return to politics for the embattled former NDP leader. A chill ran down my spine.


Madam Justice Bennett said Clark was guilty of poor judgment. Indeed, she called his actions "folly." She determined that a conspiracy had taken place to subvert democracy and that Dimitrios Pilarinos had taken an active role. She even noted that there were persons not named in the indictment who appeared to be a part of the conspiracy.


But, at the end of the day, she stated she was "not satisfied on a balance of probabilities, based on admissible evidence, that Mr. Clark was a member of that conspiracy."


I have a lot of respect for Madam Justice Bennett. I remember her from her days in the early to mid-'80s as a prosecutor in Vancouver. She was very good at it and demonstrated a genuine care for her job and ensuring the right thing was done. On that basis, I accept her decision.


Admittedly, I have yet to read her judgment in its entirety due to its length and the vagaries of early deadlines caused by stat holidays.


Having said that, I do find it a little confusing that she could convict Pilarinos on six counts, identify him as part of the conspiracy and state that Clark was foolish, if not downright dumb, to do personal business with a friend who had a casino application before his government.


Despite that, she found that there was no evidence that he knew of the conspiracy.


There used to be a premise in law called The Doctrine of Wilful Blindness. Essentially it meant that even though you didn't have specific knowledge of the crime, if you were wilfully blind to the situation, you could be found guilty. It was frequently cited in cases of possession of stolen property. You know, when someone bought that great Hasselblad camera in a bar for only 20 bucks. Hey what a great deal! That kind of thing.


In this case, Clark was definitely nobbled by Pilarinos as evidenced by the convictions. He was, in my view, wilfully blind to the reasoning behind Pilarinos's "free" labour on his home renovations and the deck on the weekend family cottage. But hey, this won't be the first time I disagreed with a judge.


Bennett also took great pains to smack Clark's defence team around a bit for their groundless attack on RCMP Staff Sgt. Peter Montague who headed the investigation.


Lawyer David Gibbons tried to paint Montague as being part of a political conspiracy to get Clark. He tried to make hay out of the fact Montague was not called by the Crown as a witness.


In fact, the Crown offered him up for cross, but Gibbons declined. He also had the opportunity to call him as a defence witness, were he so inclined. For that matter, he could have called John Daly or me considering we were both named by Clark as being part of it as well. But Gibbons did nothing of the kind.


In her judgment Bennett said this of Gibbons' tactics: "I find this conduct by the defence, of making serious allegations regarding matters that go directly to the professional character of a person and then refusing to take any steps to back up the allegations, unacceptable."


On the courthouse steps, Clark couldn't resist floating a little political spin, reminding me of the days when he was in public life, wondering aloud why the police and Crown put all the energy and money into this investigation and prosecution when they could have been investigating the missing women. Nonsense. The missing women case, such as it was then, was a Vancouver Police matter, not the RCMP's jurisdiction.


In the second place, there was an allegation of corruption against the highest elected official in the province. What does Mr. Clark suggest they should have done with that? Look the other way?


Do not lose sight of the fact that Madam Justice Bennett did find a party of the conspiracy guilty on six counts. Quite apart from anything else, that justifies the investigation and prosecution.


Clark spinning like a top in front of a media scrum was probably a fitting end to what has been a most sordid chapter in the history of British Columbia.






Primetimecrime current headlines               Columns 2002