NEWS
12/14/2011 01:09 EST | Updated 02/13/2012 05:12 EST

Crown hopes to broadcast rioting trials as first accused appears in court

VANCOUVER - Several accused in the Stanley Cup riot offered apologies to reporters as they made their first court appearances Wednesday and one, a former beauty queen, signalled her intention to plead guilty.

As the first eight of the more than two dozen charged each appeared in front of a justice of the peace, the Crown made good on a promise to ask that the cases be televised.

"I love this city very much," said Spencer Kirkwood, 25, of Vancouver, as he went into court. "What happened, I can't change, and I really wish I could."

Another, 20-year-old Jeffrey Post of Maple Ridge, was reluctant to speak until repeatedly questioned by reporters.

"I'm remorseful for what I did, and I'm dealing with the police," said Post.

Bystanders hurled insults as the accused walked by.

"What a punk you are, buddy. You're a punk," yelled one. Added another: "You're a coward."

Police have predicted hundreds of people will eventually be charged.

Those who appeared in court Wednesday were all charged with participating in a riot — along with a mix of other offences including break and enter and mischief — in connection with the destructive June 15 riot that followed the Vancouver Canucks' loss in the Stanley Cup final.

Inside court, all appeared either in person or by video except 20-year-old Sophie LaBoissonniere, who once won the title of Miss Congeniality at a local beauty pageant.

Her lawyer appeared on her behalf and asked that her case be put off until Jan. 19.

"At this point, I'm intending on entering a guilty plea," David Baker told court.

Baker wouldn't elaborate when questioned by reporters.

The remaining cases were adjourned, with dates set for the coming days and weeks.

So far, 27 people have been charged, although the Crown is still considering charges against several dozen people and police expect to forward more files to prosecutors soon.

More first appearances are scheduled throughout this week and continuing into January. All but one of the accused remain free.

Ryan Dickinson, 20, of Coquitlam, was charged last week with participating in a riot, mischief and breach of an undertaking and spent the weekend in jail.

He appeared by video for a bail hearing, but that was put off until Friday. He sat wearing red jail garb with his hands in his lap as he watched lawyers discuss his case.

During that hearing, Crown counsel Patti Tomasson told the court she intended to apply to broadcast the hearings — something the premier promised in a throne speech earlier this year.

Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said prosecutors will be making such applications for every accused rioter.

"It's being done pursuant to the direction provided by the attorney general that applications be made by the branch for broadcast of the proceedings relating to substantive appearances such as sentencing or guilty pleas or trials," MacKenzie told reporters outside the courthouse.

"Obviously, whether or not any of the matters are broadcast is in the control of the court, and how matters may be broadcast would be subject to whatever terms the court might put in place should broadcast be granted."

Televised legal proceedings are incredibly rare in Canada, although courts in B.C. have policies that allow media outlets or lawyers involved in a case to apply to have cameras inside the courtroom.

Most recently, a B.C. Supreme Court judge allowed cameras to record closing arguments during a landmark constitutional case regarding Canada's anti-polygamy law. A broader application to broadcast the entire trial, including testimony from witnesses, was denied.

Formal guidelines were created in B.C. in 2001 outlining when television cameras can be allowed into the courtrooms and what restrictions should be placed upon them.

The introduction of that policy followed a case a year earlier involving a high-profile human smuggling trial, which was believed to be the first in the province's history to permit cameras inside a courtroom. The presiding judge allowed cameras to capture video and still photographs of the lawyers during closing arguments.

However, an effort to have cameras record proceedings in the case against former premier Glen Clark in 2001 was turned down.

So far, all such applications have come from media outlets.

MacKenzie said the riot cases will mark the first time the Crown has asked for a court proceeding to be broadcast.

The first batch of charges followed a police investigation that took months and faced criticism that it was taking too long.

Vancouver police repeatedly asked for patience, noting investigators were looking through tens of thousands of images and hundreds of hours of video, many obtained by members of the public watching the drama unfold.

One person has already pleaded guilty to charges related to the riot.

Karanvir Singh Saran pleaded guilty to possessing clothing stolen from a store during the riot. He received an absolute discharge, avoiding jail time.

Those charges were laid by the RCMP and weren't connected to the Vancouver Police Department's investigation.