Special prosecutors’ fitness for job probed

Qualifications to be looked at after officers' acquittals

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The province plans to examine the qualifications of special prosecutors hired to take on cases involving police officers in the wake of a pair of recent acquittals.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/03/2011 (4228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The province plans to examine the qualifications of special prosecutors hired to take on cases involving police officers in the wake of a pair of recent acquittals.

“I will be discussing this issue with the director of prosecutions,” Justice Minister Andrew Swan told the Free Press Thursday through an intermediary.

“Both cases are still within the appeal period,” he said, referring to a perjury case involving two Winnipeg police officers and a sex-assault case involving another city officer. In both cases, the officers were acquitted.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Justice Minister Andrew Swan says there won't be a formal 'review,' but qualifications will be examined.

Swan was out of town on Thursday and couldn’t be reached for an interview.

For more than a decade, the province has brought in Crown attorneys from outside Manitoba or hired local private-practice lawyers to prosecute cases involving police officers or others closely connected to the criminal justice system.

On Thursday, Swan told the Free Press in an email forwarded by a cabinet aide no formal “review” had been ordered into the prosecutions. But, “Having said that, I agree that this is the time to look at the qualifications (of special prosecutors),” he wrote.

The two cases referred to by Swan were both handled by veteran Winnipeg lawyer Robert Tapper.

In late February, defence lawyers successfully moved to dismiss perjury charges against their police officer clients, saying Tapper had failed to properly identify the accused in court. In the second case on Wednesday, the case boiled down to the credibility of a 50-year-old award-winning officer versus two troubled kids who claimed he molested them.

Incidentally, Tapper was successful in the prosecution of a Mountie, who was sentenced Thursday to two years less a day for trying to sexually assault a teenage girl in a First Nations community.

In an interview Thursday, Tapper said he was “not concerned” about any review into his work.

“I’ve been practising for close to 40 years. I spent the first 10 to 15 years doing exclusively a diet of criminal law. I think that my experience speaks for itself,” he said.

He said he plans to file an appeal by early next week in the perjury case involving Consts. Peter O’Kane and Jess Zebrun. All that is holding that up is the receipt of a transcript from the trial, which he said he could receive as early as today.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Robert Tapper notes defence lawyers have apologized for comments they made about his work.

“The transcript will bear out what I said all along, which was that identity was admitted (by lawyers for the accused). So I’m not concerned with that and I’m not concerned about anyone reviewing what I did at all,” he said.

Tapper said he was unfairly criticized by the media for his handling of the case. And he said he later received an emailed apology from defence lawyer Hymie Weinstein for comments Weinstein made about his work.

Weinstein had said after the trial that proving the accused’s identity is something that is taught in “Day 1 of Crown attorney school.”

As for the acquittal in the sex case involving city Const. Kenneth Anderson, Tapper said the judge found there was reasonable doubt. “What are you going to do about that? There was a full fair trial on the merits of that one.”

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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