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

Surrey’s new top cop doesn’t believe residents have lost faith in the RCMP

Brian Edwards will take over the reins of Canada’s largest RCMP detachment on Jan. 6

Surrey mother voices concerns about Highway 15 intersection after crash

Kim Squirell’s daughter and her friend injured in collision at 176 Street and 40 Avenue

Surrey Schools to sell property meant for school due to close proximity to pretrial

Sale funds would go toward purchasing new potential school site

Eight Surrey groups to share $375K in grant money

The not-for-profit groups focus on public safety and the environment

SURREY HISTORY: The 1914 Sedro-Woolley bank robbery and its connection to Cloverdale

Columnist Sue Bryant looks back at the Pacific Northwest’s biggest bank heist of 1914 and its entanglement with the Surrey area

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

National cold case hunters take on search for missing man last seen in B.C.

Kristofer Couture’s car was found at Chilliwack trailhead in January but there’s been no sign since

What’s happening: week of Dec. 12

Events and community listings for North Delta

Owner surrenders dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage to BC SPCA

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

Most Read