B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch vows to continue to work with Lindsay Hauck to try to resolve her concerns.
In a reply for comment from The Morning Star, communications counsel Dan McLaughlin said while he “cannot speak to the substance of any discussions we have had with the victims or their families in this case, the prosecutor (Iain Currie) met with the family of the deceased and with Ms. Hauck in November last year prior to concluding the resolution discussions.”
(Currie was asked for comment but an automatic reply from his office indicated he is on vacation).
McLaughlin said in many cases, Crown and defence counsels will have plea resolution discussions which, he said, are “essential to the proper functioning of the justice system in B.C.”
“They will often result in a guilty plea or admissions by the accused as to facts which otherwise would have to be proven in court,” said McLaughlin. “Early resolutions reduce trauma and inconvenience to victims and witnesses and result in a more efficient and timely justice system where trials are either not necessary or are shorter due to the focusing of the proceedings on those facts which are clearly at issue.
“Additionally a resolution before trial ensures certainty and finality regarding the process. There will be no trial, no uncertainty as to outcome and no appeal.”
Resolution discussions are based on principles of fairness, openness, accuracy, non-discrimination and public interest. Every bit of information known to Crown, he said, is taken into account including information that is “oftentimes not in the public domain.”
As with many of the decisions prosecutors make during the course of a prosecution, guidelines are established in the form of policies and are publicly available on the province’s website.
McLaughlin said in this particular case, the resolution was “appropriate, just and consistent with these policies.”
As for staying six of eight charges against the accused, McLaughlin pointed to those same policies.
“…Although there may be a substantial likelihood of conviction on a particular charge, Crown may direct a stay of proceedings on that charge and accept a plea to a reduced number of charges or to included offences as long as Crown ensures that the offences to which the accused pleads guilty appropriately reflect the criminal conduct of the accused and provide an adequate sentencing range given all of the circumstances.”
“The crown agreed to the resolution in this case after a full and careful review of the facts of the offence, the relevant case law and the personal circumstances of the offender,” said McLaughlin.
“On the facts of this case a plea to impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm allowed the Crown to lay before the court all the relevant circumstances of the offences and allowed for a sentencing range that properly reflected the criminal conduct of the offender, her moral culpability and her personal circumstances.”
Asked about Erin Smith’s father having his victim impact statement reduced from 18 pages to five by Currie, McLaughlin said the prosecutor “made his decision consistent with Crown counsel policies and his responsibility to the victims, the Criminal Justice System and the accused.”
“The victim impact statement provided by Mr. Smith was edited in accordance with the governing legislation and the direction of our courts,” he said.
McLaughlin said Crown lawyers work as prosecutors on behalf of society as a whole; they do not represent or “work for” individual victims.
“While we appreciate that the victim and the family disagree with some of the decisions in this case, we hope that the information provided will assist them and the public with understanding how and why certain decisions were made in regards to the court process and entering and completing plea resolution discussions,” he said.