REAL SCOOP: Second complaint against judge to be filed

Justice Peter Leask LES BAZSO / PROVINCE


Kamloops This Week reporter Tim Petruk was in court March 20 when B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask urged the Crown in a sexual assault case to speed things up and eliminate some of her witnesses in the trial – which was scheduled for two weeks.

And he quipped that he preferred to sleep in his own bed. 

Petruk reported the inappropriate comments. The next day, the Crown stayed the four charges against the 90-year-old man accused of raping his stepdaughter in the mid-70s from the time she was nine until she was 15.

UBC law professor Benjamin Perrin filed a complaint against Leask. And now the victim in the case, who I interviewed at length over the weekend, is about to file her own complaint.

It is not the first time Leask has been in hot water for remarks made from the bench. I broke the story a decade ago about him swearing during the Crown’s closing submissions in a drug case involving a Hells Angel who he later acquitted.

Here’s my latest story:

Complainant in Kamloops sex assault case devastated by judge’s comments, Crown stay of charges

A woman who accused her stepfather of sexually assaulting her decades ago plans to file a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council this week over controversial comments made by the B.C. Supreme Court judge presiding over her case.

The woman, whose identity is shielded by a publication ban, says she is also distraught at the conduct of Crown prosecutor Katie Bouchard, who stayed four charges against her stepfather on March 21.

Even before the 56-year-old woman took the stand in Kamloops Supreme Court to begin her testimony on March 20, Justice Peter Leask asked Bouchard to cut some of her witnesses to speed up the trial.

“Full disclosure, I live in Vancouver,” Leask said, according to Kamloops This Week reporter Tim Petruk. “Kamloops is a wonderful place, but I like sleeping in my own bed.”

Shortly after the comments, the woman took the stand as the Crown’s first witness against her stepfather, who was charged with four counts of sexually assaulting her in the 1970s when she was a teen in Adams Lake.

She said she felt Bouchard’s tone with her was harsh and she “slipped up” on one of her answers.

“I felt like I was being cross-examined. That’s what I felt like. It was just bang, bang, bang, bang, rush, rush, rush.”

She said she wasn’t prepared for some of the things the Crown asked, including about her son who committed suicide last year.

“I couldn’t believe she was bringing that up. I just went, ‘Could you please stop.’ So the judge called a recess,” the woman said, crying.

The trial was adjourned until the following day.

Bouchard told her to read over her evidence from the 2016 preliminary hearing as well as her statements to police, she said.

The woman only learned about Leask’s comments when she read Petruk’s reporting early the next day.

“I had no idea this had happened. It just felt like a punch in the stomach,” she said.

She returned to the courthouse, expecting to continue her testimony.

Instead, Bouchard told her the charges were being stayed because she no longer felt there was enough evidence.

The woman said the RCMP and the Crown who approved the charges thought there was sufficient evidence when she came forward in 2014. And a provincial court judge also determined there was enough evidence to go to trial after the preliminary hearing.

She said she has been rocked by both the Crown’s decision and Leask’s insensitive comments in court.

Crown spokesman Dan McLaughlin reiterated Monday that Leask’s comments had no bearing on the decision to drop the charges.

“The decision to stay the charges in this case was made after a full and careful review of the evidence available to the prosecutor with conduct of the file,” he said in a statement. “After reviewing this information and conferring with senior counsel … the prosecutor concluded the charge assessment standard was no longer met. In these circumstances, a stay of proceedings is the appropriate course of action.”

The woman said she should have been allowed to complete her testimony. 

“They were looking for an out just to get it over with,” she said.

UBC law professor Benjamin Perrin has already filed a complaint about Leask’s comments, based on Petruk’s report of what was said in court.

Perrin said Monday that even if Leask was joking, his comments are inappropriate in any trial, let alone one about sexual assault allegations.

“It was very disturbing to me, particularly in the context that 95 per cent of sexual assault cases never get reported to police, and one of the reasons victims give is that they don’t trust the justice system,” Perrin said.

Comments like Leask’s “only serve to reinforce that message,” he said.

In 2007, Leask was censured by the judicial council for swearing during the Crown’s closing arguments in a drug case involving a Hells Angel he later acquitted.



Cocaine found in his locker but Hells Angel walks free: Judge says accused would be ‘out of his f. . .in’ mind’ to store drugs in his locker

Vancouver Sun
Thu Mar 15 2007
Page: A1 / FRONT
Section: News
Byline: Kim Bolan
Source: Vancouver Sun

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask acquitted a member of the Hells Angels on a cocaine trafficking charge Wednesday, a day after swearing at the Crown prosecutor during his closing arguments.

Leask found Glen Jonathan Hehn not guilty, saying he found Hehn, a full-patch member of the elite Nomads chapter of the Angels, “to be a good witness.”

“His answers were straightforward and clear,” Leask said in his oral decision.

On Tuesday, as federal prosecutor Ernie Froess made his closing submissions in the case, Leask used profanity four times, according to a transcript obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

When Froess argued that the locker where a large volume of cocaine was located was rented by Hehn, Leask said:

“But to be really clear, he’d have had to have been out of his f. . .in’ mind to store it in his own locker, all right? I mean, that’s for sure he wouldn’t do that. Let’s not spend any time on that theory.”

Chief Justice Donald Brenner said later Wednesday that he will review the comments made by Leask, but could not say more without knowing the context.

“I will first of all try to find out what occurred,” Brenner said.

“I haven’t seen the transcript and I don’t know the context and I am not in a position to comment one way or the other, not having seen it, or heard it or read it.”

Attorney-General Wally Oppal had reviewed the transcript and said later that Leask “has had an excellent reputation.”

“Most judges would not express themselves that way, but I am not going to second-guess Peter Leask,” Oppal said.

Hehn was arrested in July 2003 when police stopped a truck he was riding in with Ewan Lilford, a Coquitlam man associated with the motorcycle club. Investigators from the Organized Crime Agency of B.C. said that minutes earlier they saw the men loading boxes into the truck from a storage unit, rented by Hehn, at 5555, 192nd St. in Cloverdale.

One-kilo cocaine bricks worth a total of $1.5 million were seized from the vehicle and at the storage locker.

Hehn testified during the six-day trial that he rarely used the locker, but allowed friends, including Lilford, to have access to it.

He claimed that on the morning in question, Lilford had used his own key to access the facility, even though police did not find a key on Lilford when they searched his truck a short time later.

Leask said he gave “anxious consideration” to the fact that no key was found, but decided that the search of the truck may not have been thorough enough.

“I am not prepared to reject Mr. Hehn’s evidence,” Leask said.

Before he acquitted the long-time biker, Leask raised the issue of a request by media outlets to get access to transcripts of the closing arguments. He agreed to release the documents, after defence lawyer Neil Cobb said he had no objections.

After Leask rejected Froess’ position that Hehn stored the cocaine in his own locker, Froess argued that Lilford would have been a fool to secretly use the locker of a Hells Angel.

“If Mr. Hehn’s a Hells Angel and Mr. Lilford stored cocaine in his locker without his knowledge, Mr. Lilford would know that there would be serious repercussions if Hehn discovered that cocaine, realized the jeopardy to which Mr. Lilford was exposing him, legal and otherwise,” Froess said.

Leask, who has been a judge since November 2005, described what might have been going through Lilford’s mind, though Lilford did not testify.

“On the one hand, he can minimize his risk of detection and apprehension by just aborting the whole f—ing thing, right? And saying, I thought I was going to do these things, but I’m not going to do them, it’s just this morning is not working out for me, or he can try and make the best of things,” Leask said.

He also swore twice more during the morning arguments, while a group of school children, touring the courts for educational purposes, sat in the public gallery.

Neither Cobb, nor Froess, would comment on the issue of profanity when asked about it Wednesday.

Bob Prior, regional director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, said the Crown has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the acquittal. No complaint has yet been filed about the swearing.

Brenner said if someone has a formal complaint about a judge, they must contact the Canadian Judicial Council in Ottawa.

“That is the body that is charged with receiving and investigating complaints against federally-appointed judges,” he said.

RCMP Insp. Gary Shinkaruk, who heads the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Unit, said police did their job by bringing the evidence to court in the Hehn case.

“Certainly I am disappointed with the verdict,” Shinkaruk said. “But we respect the decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.”

Shinkaruk said the other accused, Lilford, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and is being flown to the U.S. today to enter a second guilty plea in a drug conspiracy case for which he was charged in Indiana in March 2004.

Lilford has reached a plea agreement of a 16-year jail sentence for both the Canadian and the U.S. charges and will be able to serve his time in Canada.

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Judge issues apology for swearing in court: Public controversy over use of f-word led to special court sitting Friday

Vancouver Sun
Sat Mar 17 2007
Page: A3
Section: News
Byline: Kim Bolan
Source: Vancouver Sun

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask gave a heartfelt apology Friday for profanity he used earlier in the week during the Crown’s closing arguments in a drug trafficking case.

Courtroom 55 was packed for the special sitting arranged by Chief Justice Donald Brenner at Leask’s request over the public controversy that erupted over the swearing incident Tuesday morning, which took place while a school group was in the public gallery.

“I know you are all aware of the circumstances surrounding my completely improper use of language during closing submissions in Regina v. Hehn,” Leask began, reading his statement slowly and clearly.

“Today, I wish to apologize to the public, to any members of the public who were in court on Tuesday, including especially the schoolchildren, the lawyers of the province, court staff, judicial administrative staff, and all members of this court, past and present, as well as members of other courts of this province. The language I used had no place in court. I was wrong in using this language. I hereby wish to make an unreserved apology to all those I have enumerated and acknowledge that my behaviour was inexcusable.”

Leask, a prominent defence lawyer until he was appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court in November 2005, sounded emotional at points during his statement.

“In the circumstances, I can only humbly request that members of the public, the court and judicial staff, the bar and my past and present judicial colleagues will accept my unreserved apology in the spirit in which it is offered,” he said. “To the extent that my conduct has damaged the reputation of the court, it pains me greatly and I am particularly anxious that my colleagues recognize my contrition.”

He also said he did not want his conduct to reflect poorly on the “judiciary as a whole or my arduously working colleagues. I deeply regret my actions. They will not be repeated,” he said.

Defence lawyers, prosecutors, reporters and sheriffs joined members of the public for the unusual event. The consensus afterwards was that Leask did the right thing to end the controversy by apologizing.

Leask acquitted Glen Jonathan Hehn, a member of the Hells Angels, Wednesday on a cocaine trafficking charge, saying he accepted Hehn’s testimony that he was unaware a friend had been using Hehn’s storage locker to stash 52 kilograms of cocaine.

A day earlier, when federal prosecutor Ernie Froess was making his final submissions, Leask used “f—ing” twice, as well as other profanity.

Froess told reporters that he had never asked for an apology.

“His comments were obviously heartfelt and very genuine and as far as I’m concerned that puts this issue to rest,” Froess said. “His comments at the time didn’t give me any particular concern. I had no concerns that the Crown was not being afforded a fair hearing. To the contrary, I thought the Crown received a very fair hearing.”

Lawyer Neil Cobb, who was representing Hehn, lashed out at The Vancouver Sun for its coverage of the issue.

“I felt terrible listening to him say that in light of all his years of tireless public service,” Cobb said. “He didn’t deserve this maelstrom and we are bordering on offended the fact that it’s happened.”

Lawyer Terry La Liberte, who described Leask as a mentor to him, said the judge does not use profanity outside of court.

“His comments today were a full and complete apology,” La Liberte said, noting Leask’s “absolutely impeccable reputation. That’s the end of it.”

Ten-year-old Adam Veitch came to court with his dad Jason after learning of the special event through the media.

“It was good that he apologized for what he said because that was kind of inappropriate what he said, especially because there was students there,” Adam said, adding the lesson he learned about swearing was that “you shouldn’t do it, especially when there’s a lot of people there because it can get back to you in bad ways.”

Jason Veitch said he wanted his son to learn a “lesson about being a responsible citizen and a good member of society to listen about how people apologize.”