Annual Report 2014/2015

  • July 14, 2015

Submitted by Section Co-Chair, Eliza Bates-Smith

Summary of Meetings

Number of Meetings Held: 6

September 24, 2014
Guest Speaker: Blair Spencer, Community Corrections
Meeting Title/Topic: Community Supervision
Synopsis: The manager of Victoria Probation gave a presentation on the services available through community supervision. He also asked questions.

October 29, 2014
Guest Speakers: Paul Pearson, Dale Marshall, Laura Ford, Tamara Hodge, and Judge Mrozinski
Meeting Title/Topic: Ethics in Criminal Law - Panel Talk
Synopsis: The above panel of speakers addressed a variety of ethical issues and problems that arise for counsel, and weighed in with their perspectives on the appropriate and ethical response to those scenarios.

Issues canvassed included:
• communicating with complainants and interviewing crown witnesses;
• crown disclosure obligations, including in the case of a recanting witness or witness who is unlikely to show for trial, and how those obligations intersect with the ability to engage in resolution discussions
• the duty to not mislead the court, including at sentencing where crown overlooks a criminal record, or where defence is advised of both mitigating and aggravating circumstances by the bail officer.
• dealing at trial with untruthful defence witnesses, or obligations following trial for crown in realding with recanting crown witnesses
• obligations and ethics when dealing with the media
• appropriate responses when defence counsel are approached by an accused looking to change lawyers
• when if ever is it approach to disclose to the court that your retainer is a Legal Aid retainer
• conflicts of interest involving third party payment of defence fees
• the extent to which defence can counsel their clients on pre-sentence reports
• dealing with incriminating evidence
• when if ever it is appropriate for defence to refer to a Crown ISP in the course of submissions to the court

The meeting was very well attended and involved an engaging discussion on ethics and professional obligations. Thank you to our panelists for sharing your time and insights.

November 26, 2014
Guest Speakers: The Honourable Associate Chief Judge Phillips, The Honourable Judge Higginbothom, JCM Dawn North (from the Office of the Chief Judge), and Sue Hendricks
Meeting Title/Topic: Introduction to the new Assignment Court System and a guest talk on Gladue Reports
Synopsis: Judge Phillips. Judge Higginbothom and J.C.M. North presented on the new assignment court system. It was explained that they are trying to deal with a court backlog and Askov issues by way of a delayed assigned system which recognizes the variables on whehter trials proceed. There will be seven sites where this system is implemented, and Victoira is the 4th of them to do so. The system is already in use in provinces such as Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland.

It was explained that the judge sitting in remand court will still be known ahead of time.

Some defence counsel expressed concern about not knowing ahead of time who the judge will be for trials. Judge Higginbothom indicated that they are open to ongoing feedback.

The court will start at 9:00 am with the JCM and persons in custody will be there for 9 as well. That JCM will contact counsel the week prior to inquire as to whether the matter is likely to proceed.

Sue Hendricks then presented on Gladue reports and Aboriginal programming options. She provided attendees with a list of LSS Gladue Report writers. Gillian Lindquist is listed as an approved writer for the Victoria area ( She also provided a list of contacts for the Department of Justice Aboriginal Justice Strategy - British Columbia. One of those contacts is Nakoa Faulconer, a justice worker with the South Island Wellness Aboriginal Restorative Justice Program (she is based in North Saanich and can be reached at 778-426-2997 or at

Hendricks also discussed the BC government's Ministry of Justice Corrections Branch Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Programs and Relationships.

February 25, 2015
Guest Speaker: Peter Firestone, Robert Claus & Steven Kelliher
Meeting Title/Topic: Advocacy: Effective Cross Examinations
Synopsis: Our three guest speakers each took turns providing their best tips and lessons learned on cross-examination, and they also fielded questions from the audience. Some pointers made included:
• cross examination involves developing a personal style - what may work for one person won't necessarily be the best approach for you, and you want to come across as genuine
• know your audience - your approach to cross-examination will differ depending on whether you are in front or a judge or a jury, and on the preferences of the judge
• a useful book to read on the topic is "Cross-examination: Science and Techniques
• know the case, and listen carefull to the witness so that you know when they mistep
• try reading your own trial transcripts - it will help you to eliminate verbal "ticks"
• have a plan but don't be wed to it
• there were differing opinions on how closely you must comply with the rule in Brown v. Dunn. Speakers did agree though that you do need to test the credibility of the witness to make submissions on that later
• "settle for singles" - small points add up, you don't have to hit a home run the whole time
• when dealing with expert witnesses, it is a good idea to only ask questions that you know the answers to
•make sure to get the witness to verbalize head nods or mumbles
• it often helps to start with a few innocuous questions so that the witness's gaurd comes down
• if dealing with a professional witness, a useful technique can be to go after peripheral matters that they are not necessarily expecting to answer or are prepared for, and get the witnesses to contradict each other on those points
• preliminary inquiries are a good time to cross examine witnesses and also when they are generally less prepared, compared to a trial

May 20, 2015
Guest Speakers: Police K9 unit, including Cst. Almeida, Sgt. Chicorelli, and Cst. LeQuesne. Cst. Greffard, a use of force instructor, on non-firearm weapons. Cst. Stevenson, a drug expert, on common drugs in Victoria, on the use and trafficking of those drugs
Meeting Title/Topic: Police Presentations
Synopsis: The above police officers provided presentations on their areas of expertise. The K9 team went first. They talked about the various police tasks they use the K9 dogs for, the selection, training and care for the dogs, and fielded questions from lawyers about issues such as use of force and suspect apprehensions. They demonstrated one of the dogs tracking down hidden drugs.

Next Cst. Greffard, a use of force instructor, provided a power point presentation on various non-firearm restricted and prohibited weapons. She brought out a supply of various weapons seized from investigations in the Victoria area as examples of the weapons being discussed. The types of weapons covered included batons, knives, easily concealable or disguised weapons, sprays and tasers. She also discussed how the context of the weapon dsicovery and seizure can be relevant to determining whether it should be subject to a weapons charge.

Finally, Cst. Stevenson, an officer with the crime reduction unit, shared his expertise on drugs and drug trafficking. He brought out a police drug kit and showed samples to the attendees, discussing drug appearance, odour, dosage, effects, and distribution. He also explained how powder cocaine is converted into crack cocaine.

May 27, 2015
Guest Speaker: Blair Spencer, Victoria Community Corrections, and Pat Doherty, VIRCC
Meeting Title/Topic: BC Corrections, Community Supervision and VIRCC (plus elections)
Synopsis: Blair Spencer, Local Manager of Victoria Community Corrections, and Pat Doherty, the Acting Warden of VIRCC, provided an informative power point presentation providing an inside look at the workings of the BC Corrections Branch. This includes: facts and figures, an overview of the Principles of Risk, Need, and Responsivity that are the foundation of an evidence-based approach to reduce offending and protect public safety; and a look at the programs delivered to inmates and clients to help them develop skills to lead healthier lives. Mr. Doherty also discussed the logistics surrounding visiting inmates at VIRCC.

The information provided in this presentation included:
• There are 9 adult custody centres in B.C. VIRCC is the oldest one. A new centre is being built in the Okanagan and will house both male and female offenders.
• There are approx. 2,500 inmates in custody, including on remand, sentence or detention.
• The average times spent in custody are: remanded persons - 34 days; sentenced persons: 68 days; persons supervised in community - 270 days.
• Community Corrections has approximately 21,500 clients, although those numbers can be deceiving as not all of them are active. It has 681 employees.
• A bail supervisor will have around 125-150 clients. Supervision techniques in remote communities were discussed. Home checks are used for clients who are high risk offenders or subject to high risk charges.
• Corrections goals include protecting communities, supervising court orders in a safe manner, using evidence based best practices, and reducing re-offending.
• They have a mandate to move prisoners to the lowest risk place that is appropriate.
• Many of the programs require sentences of 4 or more months
•Guthrie House in Nanaimo requires a real sentences of at least 120 days but that's tight because it usually takes about two weeks to determine appropriate place for inmate to serve sentence and whether suitable candidate for that program.
• Guthrie House can take up to 60 people and is currently operating under capacity.
• Break down of persons in custody is approx. 54% remand / detention; 45% sentenced; 1% immigration
• Remand prisoners don't have to participate in anything, but sentenced prisoners can be mandated to work or take programming.
• There is a 24 bed mental health unit at VIRCC. It is always full.
• 95% of staff assaults are from inmates with mental health issues
• They are rolling out e-services for inmates, including a service called "myLegal" that allows the inmate to do full disclosure review electronically.
• It costs $215 / day to supervise someone in custody, and $7.38 / day to supervise someone in the community.
• Electronic monitoring in the community is usually used for CSOs. They don't receive many requests for it. It is not designed for bail. Will likely move to GPS monitoring in the future.
• Approximately 1/4th of inmate population is Aboriginal, but the resources are not equally proportionate for providing programming targeted to that population. They are working on developing more First Nations programming, but again the resources for that do not match the First Nations population that they serve.

At this meeting the CBA Criminal Justice - Victoria Section held elections and acclamations for the new executive for the 2015-2016 term. The new executive is:
• Co-chairs: Clare Jennings and Eliza Bates-Smith
• Treasurer: Andrew Tam
• Secretary: Jill Vivian
• Social Coordinator: Ryan Drury
• Legislative Liaison: Paula Donnachie

Comments and Observations of the Chair

We were successful in hosting six informative and well attended meetings. We look forward to offering six more high quality meetings next year.