POLITICS
02/10/2012 08:29 EST | Updated 04/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Judge raises concerns over idea of cameras in court for Stanley Cup rioters

VANCOUVER - The first application to put cameras in the court during hearings for suspects in Vancouver's Stanley Cup riot appears to be heading for failure.

Provincial Court Judge Malcolm MacLean said Friday he had concerns about the technology, the costs, the safety of the court and the chilling effect the cameras may have on witnesses.

MacLean peppered Crown lawyer Trevor Shaw with questions throughout the hearing about the impact of the cameras.

"The problem I have is lack of information," he said. "I think it's not fair to ask the court to speculate on these things."

MacLean said he had difficulty making such a decision without the help of an amicus, or a lawyer appointed to act in the assistance of the court.

The judge will deliver his decision on the issue on Monday.

No matter what he decides, MacLean said he doesn't want the sentencing hearing for admitted rioter Ryan Dickinson to be held up on Tuesday.

Dickinson, who is in custody, appeared in court with a dark bruise under his left eye and wore a prison-issued red T-shirt and pants.

His lawyer, Greg DelBigio, told the court there was a perception that his client was being singled out by politicians such as Premier Christy Clark and Attorney General Shirley Bond.

"There is a very strong political motive for the broadcast application," he told the judge. "It undermines the appearance of fairness."

Dickinson pleaded guilty to participating in the June 15 riot and to breach of recognizance related to a previous assault charge.

MacLean also voiced concerns about witnesses wanting to come to the court to speak in favour of Dickinson when they have to face a camera.

"I can imagine it's tough enough to get character witnesses without broadcast and rebroadcast. Is that not just a bit chilling on witnesses," he wondered.

Shaw told the court the riot was of great notoriety and the broadcast of the hearing would have broad public interest.

"It's exactly the type of circumstance where the most benefit will be derived from such a broadcast."

The rioters tore through the city June 15 last year, smashing windows, looting and burning after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 to the Boston Bruins.

In the days after the riot, Clark vowed rioters would face justice and said the government would ask the courts to broadcast the hearings of those expected to be charged.

The Crown has approved 129 criminal charges against 47 accused rioters, and Vancouver police say many more charges are coming.

MacLean said he could see the entire process getting bogged down if there are hundreds of applications to broadcast moving through the provincial court.

The Crown Lawyers Association also had representation at the hearing, asking that the court make sure prosecutors weren't shown during the broadcasts.

The association's lawyer, Richard Peck, said there was an alarming trend in the last decade of increased violence toward prosecutors around the world, in Canada and in B.C.

MacLean admitted the issue of security wasn't an issue he had considered until Peck's argument and he wondered about the safety of other workers in the court if they're shown on broadcasts.

"At the end of the day we leave this courthouse and we live in the community," he added.

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