A history of special prosecutors

The fact that Vancouver lawyer David Crossin was appointed special prosecutor to review the Rick Green case doesn’t mean the besieged Langley Township mayor is any more guilty or innocent than he was before the announcement was made.

What it does mean is the assistant deputy attorney general who made the appointment, believes there is “a significant potential for a perceived or real improper influence in prosecutorial decision.”

The words are taken from the provincial government web site that describes the function of special prosecutors, the independent lawyer brought in to defuse the most explosive cases.

“The paramount consideration is the need to maintain public confidence in the administration of criminal justice” the site goes on to say.

A little history lesson may be in order.

The law establishing the B.C. system of independent outside prosecutors was established two decades ago after the Bill Reid controversy erupted.

When Reid, a senior government MLA, was accused of improper use of lottery money but was never charged, there were howls of outrage and charges of political interference with the legal system.

The complaints were so loud and persistent they led to a public commission of inquiry which called for the use of outside prosecutors.

The 1990 report by Stephen Owen said independent lawyers should be brought in “where there is a significant potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of criminal justice because of the proximity of the suspect, or someone with a close relationship to the suspect, to the investigation, charge approval or prosecution processes.” 

The Green case would certainly seem to qualify.

Anyone who doubts the controversy over what the mayor or may not have done has become something of a political circus is invited to have a look at the online comments posted at the Langley Times and other web sites.