Ottawa — The Prime Minister’s Office is at the centre of a new row over allegations of politically interfering in a prosecution – this time in the case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
The legal team for Norman are demanding that redacted notes taken in meetings between Crown prosecutors and government lawyers from the Privy Council Office (PCO) be fully disclosed so defence lawyers can determine whether political interference took place.
Norman lawyer Christine Mainville told a court on Monday that prosecutors should not be talking strategy with the PCO, which she called the “right arm” to the Prime Minister’s Office and first launched the investigation that led to the vice-admiral being charged.
“The PCO supports the prime minister. They implement what the Prime Minister’s Office wants. They execute on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office,” said Mainville.
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“In my respectful submission…the position the Crown is taking is more concerning, I would say, than the allegations relating to SNC-Lavalin,” Mainville said. “The Prime Minister’s Office, by way of its right arm, the PCO, is dealing directly with the (prosecution service), and the prosecution service apparently is allowing this to happen.”
“So much for the independence of the PPSC,” interjected Justice Heather Perkins McVey, referring to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
The latest controversy follows a Globe and Mail report last week that alleged the PMO put pressure on the attorney general to direct prosecutors to drop corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin in favour of a remediated agreement. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the allegation false, but has only specifically denied that his office gave directions to the attorney general. Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is investigating the case.
Norman’s defence team is seeking access to government documents as part of pre-trial hearings. Norman faces one criminal charge of breach of trust for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets, an allegation he has denied.
Among the documents sought by the defence are prosecutor notes from a series of meetings that took place between prosecutors and Privy Council lawyers between May 2017 and September 2018. Portions of the notes have been redacted by the Crown on the basis of “litigation privilege.”
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman and defence lawyer Christine Mainville outside court in November 2018.
In an email exchange on Friday — and filed as an exhibit in court on Monday — lead prosecutor Barbara Mercier told Mainville the redacted sections are not about witness evidence, but instead “trial strategy.”
“We maintain that discussions about how to run the trial are protected by litigation privilege,” Mercier wrote.
That set off a stream of accusations from Mainville, who drew a connection to the PMO and pointed to the fact prosecutors are supposed to operate independently.
“I don’t have to tell you, your honour, if the Prime Minister’s Office has any kind of input into the conduct of …read more
Source:: Nationalpost – News