Polygamist leader Winston Blackmore to learn the result of his constitutional charter challenge on Friday in Cranbrook Supreme Court. Trevor Crawley photo

Ruling on polygamist leader charter challenge expected today

Winston Blackmore to learn fate of his polygamy prosecution in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

A judge will deliver a ruling on the constitutional challenge of a fundamentalist polygamy leader on Friday in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Winston Blackmore was found guilty of practicing polygamy with over 24 women by Justice Sheri Donegan, who also found co-accused James Marion Oler guilty of the same offence with five women.

READ: Winston Blackmore and James Oler found guilty in landmark polygamy trial

However, at the conclusion of the Crown’s case during the trial, Blackmore’s lawyer indicated his intent to file a constitutional challenge to seek charter relief.

He is seeking a stay of proceedings or an exemption from punishment.

Blackmore, a fundamentalist Mormon leader from Bountiful — a small community south of Creston in the southern corner of BC — launched his constitutional arguments last fall, arguing that his prosecution has been an abuse of process since he was first investigated by law enforcement in the early 1990s.

It’s taken 27 years for the issue to go through the courts because government officials were convinced a prosecution of polygamy would fail based on a charter defence.

Crown officials believed that proceedings against Blackmore under Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code, the polygamy offence, would ultimately fail against a constitutional challenge.

That issue was settled in 2011 following a ruling from a constitutional reference case addressing Section 293, which determined that the harm associated with polygamy outweighs the individual right to religious freedom.

With that ruling in hand, the Ministry of Justice appointed Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor who approved the polygamy charges in 2014 and led the case for the Crown.

The crux of Blackmore’s charter challenge relies on the fact that since Crown lawyers never charged him with polygamy after an initial investigation in the early 1990s, he was essentially allowed to practice polygamy without fear of prosecution.

READ: Testimony wraps up in Blackmore charter challenge

READ: Blackmore took ‘calculated’ risk: Crown

Blackmore’s lawyer, Blair Suffredine, argued that a public statement from the Criminal Justice Branch detailing Crown’s fears that prosecuting Blackmore under Section 293 would fail serves as the basis for the challenge.

If prosecutors weren’t willing to charge Blackmore with polygamy after the initial investigation, then it essentially served as legal validation to pursue polygamous marriages, argued Suffredine.

During Blackmore’s challenge, Wilson argued on behalf of the Crown that Blackmore should have sought legal validation from the courts, instead of relying on public statements by government officials.

Just Posted

Move natural gas pipeline, MP suggests

Coastal GasLink could then avoid opposition

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

Zero-interest student loans a huge relief: CMTN student union

Parliamentary secretary hears from Terrace students, alumni and staff

Tl’azt’en man emerges strong from leukemia struggle

“You have to find that inner you and fight back,” Darren says

WANTED: Five sought by RCMP

Police asking for public’s assistance finding five people on outstanding warrants.

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Kids found playing darts with syringes in Vancouver Island park

Saanich police is urging people to throw out their syringes properly and safely

Most Read