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

City of Nanaimo wants conditions placed on any Discontent City extension

City wants to see nine conditions should the homeless camp remain after Friday’s court hearing

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: School squat hurt activists’ cause

Any support you people may have had I’m sure is now cut in half, says letter writer

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Freighters harm the ocean floor

Does anyone dive down and observe the destruction, asks letter writer

Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo releases new album, ‘17 Vultures’

Gogo currently touring in Ontario but will be back in Nanaimo for a CD release show next month

Candidates make their case to be part of Nanaimo’s next council

Select candidates’ debates held Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre

VIDEO: First legal cannabis purchases as midnight strikes in eastern Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador was the first province to kick off the sale of cannabis, just after midnight local time

Candidate lists finalized for Nanaimo, Lantzville, RDN, school district

Nomination deadline passes in advance of Oct. 20 local government elections

Election 2018: candidate questionnaires

News Bulletin’s questionnaire responses for Nanaimo, Lantzville, school board, regional district

Nanaimo gets ready to rumble with Great B.C. Shake Out

Prepare for disaster drill by checking survival supplies and planning for real seismic event

Boeser tallies in OT as Canucks beat Penguins 3-2

Vancouver wins without star rookie Pettersson

Candidate wants to bring her experience back to the school board table

TerryLynn Saunders one of 20 candidates running for Nanaimo Ladysmith school trustee

Nanaimo council candidates talk about public consultation and branding the city

Chase River town hall candidates’ meeting was held Sunday afternoon

Mayor of Kamloops says ‘history has been made’ with vote on B.C.’s lone pot shop

The store to be run by the province in B.C.’s Interior is opening Wednesday as pot sales become legal across Canada

U.S. pot firm urges Trump to deny Canadian producers ‘competitive advantage’

The challenge for U.S. firms lies in the fact that while recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medicinal pot in 22 others, it remains illegal under federal law

Most Read