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

100 Mile literacy program wraps up

Hopes for weekly drop-in next year

Several power outages reported in Cariboo Chilcotin as strong winds persist

More than 1,400 without power, hydro crews enroute

Simkins donate $1,000 to hospice

Judy and Dave Simkins, of Lifecycle Financial, presented bereavement co-ordinator Sarah Smith… Continue reading

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

More than 70 pay tribute at Memory Tree

By Melissa Smalley Community members gathered at the 100 Mile Hospital Friday… Continue reading

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Final phase of Kelowna hospital cardiac centre completed

Finishing new recovery rooms marks completion of $381 million project

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Mike Duffy can’t sue Senate over suspension without pay, judge rules

Duffy’s lawsuit sought more than $7.8 million from the upper chamber

Language on Sikh extremism in report will be reviewed, Goodale says

A public-safety ministry document indicats terrorist threats to Canada included a section on Sikh extremism for the first time

Most Read