Missing Women Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal at the December 2012 release of his report Forsaken on how the justice system failed the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton.

B.C. prosecutors shift stance on support for vulnerable witnesses

Change flows from handling of woman who escaped from serial killer Robert Pickton, Missing Women Inquiry recommendations

B.C.’s Crown prosecutors are revising how they deal with vulnerable victims and witnesses to crime in response to the 2012 Missing Women Inquiry findings that their mishandling of one woman may have let serial killer Robert Pickton extend his murder spree for years.

A prostitute barely escaped alive from his Port Coquitlam farm after a bloody knife fight with Pickton in 1997 but charges of attempted murder against him were dropped a year later, in part because Crown decided the drug-addicted woman was unable to credibly testify.

Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal recommended changes in Crown procedures and suggested in his report that better support for the woman and preparation by prosecutors to deal with her might have gleaned more information from her and got the case to trial.

At least a dozen women went missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside between the 1997 attack and Pickton’s 2002 arrest, including the six women he was eventually convicted of killing.

The province’s Criminal Justice Branch unveiled a new tailored policy to deal with vulnerable victims and witnesses, recognizing that, in cases involving serious injury, they require ongoing support throughout the prosecution.

The policy highlights various best practices, including early identification of witnesses needing support and seeking appropriate protective conditions as part of any bail order.

“Crown counsel should keep in mind that vulnerable victims and witnesses may be particularly subject to pressure, intimidation and interference,” the policy says, adding Crown should try to determine why they’re reluctant to testify and develop strategies to address the issues.

Vulnerable witnesses are defined as ones where there’s a reasonable likelihood that their effective participation in the justice system “will be significantly diminished, or eliminated, if accommodations or supports are not made available.”

It says people in the sex trade, as well as aboriginals, may be particularly vulnerable.

But witnesses may be vulnerable due to various other factors, including addiction, homelessness, mental illness, advanced age, a history of being abused, precarious legal status or ethnic, religious or cultural perspectives.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Indigenous youth arrested during 15-hour occupation to hold press conference Wednesday morning

The speakers are expected to condemn police, RCMP actions towards Indigenous people

Southern resident orca L41 considered missing and feared dead

The orca was last spotted in Aug. 2019 when photographed in western Strait of Juan de Fuca

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

VIDEO: Saanich family competes on first season of ‘Family Feud Canada’

Charania family will face off against the Torres family from Hamilton, Ont.

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Greater Victoria’s wanted list for the week of Jan. 28

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Are you concerned about the coronavirus?

The coronavirus which has sparked concern around the globe has now arrived… Continue reading

Off-duty Nanaimo Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Was there a tornado on Vancouver Island Monday?

Suspected phone app glitch gives eerie warning

Work has started on Malahat Skywalk, expected completion in 2021

$15-million project expected to open in spring, 2021

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Sooke Minor Fastball to host coaching clinic

Clinic ideal for those planning to coach U6 to U18 teams

Most Read