The Canadian Spy, Bail Reviews, and Preliminary Inquiries

Jeffrey Delisle, the naval intelligence officer charges both under the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code, will have a preliminary hearing on those charges starting on October 10, 2012. For a full review of his charges, a discussion of other infamous Canadian spies, as well as a primer on the Official Secrets Act and the legislation now enacted to replace that Act, the Security of Information Act, read my previous posting on the issue Spy vs. Spy. For a discussion of Mr. Delisle’s bail hearing see my posting Blog Update: The Spy and the Pamphleteer.

This date seems rather late considering Delisle was denied bail and has been in custody since his arrest in mid-January, 2012. By the time Delisle has his preliminary hearing, he would have been in pre-trial custody, which is much harder time than serving a sentence, for nine months. Considering this, it would not be surprising if Mr. Delisle’s counsel will launch a bail review under s. 520 of the Criminal Code.

Such a review is heard by a Superior Court Judge. In this instance as the matter is in Nova Scotia, a bail review would be before a Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice. In such a bail review, the Judge considers any relevant evidence, both written and oral, the transcript of the previous bail hearing, any exhibits filled at the previous bail hearing, and such additional evidence as either the Crown or the defence may offer.

On a bail review, counsel may argue that the previous order denying bail was based on a legal/factual error. Such argument would be based on transcript evidence and legal argument. Or the defence might argue a material change in circumstance has occurred since the previous hearing. This argument would include affidavit evidence or even vive voce evidence, which would involve calling witnesses at the review hearings. When this occurs, the bail review becomes essentially a new bail hearing. The onus of proof on a bail review is on the party who brings the application; in this case it would be the defence. It is therefore the defence who must satisfy the reviewing Judge that judicial interim release is appropriate.

There is also a provision in the Criminal Code, under s.525 for an automatic bail review if an accused has been in custody, in Delisle’s case, for more than ninety days. Considering the length of time he has already been in custody, six months, one can assume such automatic reviews have occurred. Although, these reviews are automatic, in order to ensure an accused does not languish in jail unnecessarily and in order to preserve the presumption of innocence, defence counsel can waive or pass on the right to an automatic review. This would be done if the prospect of bail seems slim. However, in such an automatic review, the reviewing judge does consider the delay in the matter coming to trial and the reasons for the delay. The longer the accused sits in pre-trial custody, the more likely the accused will eventually be released. However, in those complicated cases, which require much effort to get ready for trial, the courts will tolerate longer delays.

In Delisle’s case, because of the severity of the allegations, a trial date was not set but a preliminary hearing date. Additionally, Delisle elected to be tried by judge and jury once the matter goes to trial. Such an election is typical as the defence can change that election to a Judge alone trial after the preliminary hearing. It is far simpler to elect down to a judge alone trial than it is to elect up to a judge and jury, hence the election is usually for judge and jury.

It is important to understand that a preliminary hearing is not a trial where guilt and innocence is at issue. Traditionally, the sole purpose of the preliminary hearing is to ensure there is enough evidence to put the accused to trial. It is another safeguard to ensure the accused is fairly tried. If there is insufficient evidence, the defence will ask for a discharge of the accused at the preliminary hearing. If this is granted, the charges are dismissed and the accused is released from custody and no longer is charged with a criminal offence. If there is sufficient evidence, the judge will order the accused to stand trial in the superior court.

A preliminary hearing is heard in the lower level or provincial court. In order for the judge to make a determination of sufficiency of evidence, the Crown, who has the burden to show why the charges should proceed, calls witnesses to give evidence. The defence then has a right to cross examine the witnesses, which brings us to the ulterior reason for a preliminary hearing: to act as a discovery of information on the case, which will assist in preparation for evidence and to “pin down” witnesses on their evidence. This “pinning down” or defining clearly under oath and the record a witness’s evidence is important for trial. If a witness later changes his evidence, the fact at on an earlier occasion, when the matters were more fresh in the witness’s mind, the witness gave different evidence, will go to the credibility or believability of the witness at trial. Also, should the witness abscond or disappear, the earlier evidence given under oath at the preliminary hearing may be read into evidence at trial.

Despite the importance of the preliminary hearing to the full answer and defence of an accused, there have been calls to abolish the practice both in Canada and in other Commonwealth jurisdictions such as Australia. Some Caribbean Commonwealth countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago, have abolished the hearings. Indeed, in the UK, where the concept originated, as of April 2012, preliminary hearings or, as the English call them, committal hearings have been abolished. The changes are being phased in, with some jurisdictions still following the old system. Instead, the Crown is obliged to ensure full disclosure of the case is given to the accused in a timely fashion. Obviously, this safeguard cannot possibly take the place of a cross examination at a preliminary inquiry. In the United States, which does not follow the English common law tradition, under certain circumstances, there are preliminary hearings.

What will this mean for Mr. Delisle? In October, Mr. Delisle should be able to test the government’s case and determine the sufficiency of the evidence against him. The public however will not be privy to that information. Typically, the court on a preliminary hearing will order a ban on publication of the evidence heard, in order to ensure that no potential jurors are pre-disposed by the committal evidence. Additionally, the Crown may shut down the preliminary hearing at anytime during the course of it or even not hold the hearing at all, choosing to directly indict the accused to superior court. This tactic is helpful if the case is complicated to present or if the investigation is ongoing. There is, therefore, a possibility that Mr. Delisle will not get his “day in court” until trial. Until October, the story of the Canadian Spy will continue. 

Blog Update: The Spy and the Pamphleteer

In previous postings, I have discussed two very different cases now before Canadian courts. The first case concerns William Whatcott, a persistent anti-gay pamphleteer, who is before two different courts connected to his pamphleteering activities. The second case is of Jeffery Delisle, the first person charged with spying under the newly enacted Security of Information Act. Although the two cases are completely unrelated, court decisions in both of these cases were handed down on March 30, 2012.

The first Whatcott case, which is still on reserve before the Supreme Court of Canada, involves the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal’s finding that Whatcott’s anti-gay pamphlets amounted to hate speech. The other Whatcott case, decided on March 30, 2012, is an appeal of the quashing of Whatcott’s trespass charge when he was on University of Calgary lands to hand out his anti-gay literature. The original decision to quash the charge by Provincial Court Judge Bascom can be accessed here.

Just as a refresher, the Supreme Court of Canada Whatcott case is a vitally important decision for the ability of human rights tribunals to uphold the tenants of human rights legislation. It also raises the difficult issue of conflicting Charter rights: in this case the freedom of expression under s.2(b) and freedom of religion under s.2(a) in the context of competing Charter values as found under s.15, which promote respect and tolerance of others in our community.

Although the SCC Whatcott case concerns the constitutionality of the hate speech provision in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, the ultimate issue in the case will decide whether or not provincial laws on hate speech must conform with the more stringent hate speech section in the Criminal Code. If so, provincial human rights codes could be essentially redundant, leaving the more difficult to prove Criminal Code sections to safeguard society from the harmful effects of hate speech. Some of the factums filed in support of the SCC argument can be found here.

This SCC decision is of particular interest in Alberta, where provincial election campaigning has touched on the controversy surrounding the Alberta Human Rights Commission and its enforcement of provincial hate speech legislation. The Boisson v. Lund case, also discussed in a previous posting, shares similar issues with the SCC Whatcott. The Alberta Court of Appeal has not as yet released a decision on this case. The controversy in Alberta over this case and the high profile Alberta Human Rights case against journalist Ezra Levant for re-publishing the infamous Dutch “Muslim Cartoon,” has brought repeated calls for abolishing the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The Wildrose Party is campaigning on a platform, which includes abolishing the Commission, instead creating a new Human Rights Division in the Provincial Court of Alberta.

In the other Whatcott case of trespassing on University lands, the case has been so far decided in favour of protecting freedom of expression. In a previous posting, I discussed Alberta Provincial Court Judge Bascom’s stay of trespassing charges against Whatcott on the basis of s.2(b) expression rights under the Charter. On March 30, 2012, the appeal of the decision was heard before Alberta Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Jeffery, who summarily dismissed the Crown appeal and upheld Judge Bascom’s decision. The written reasons for the decision have not, as yet, been released.

Unlike Mr. Whatcott, Jeffery Delisle did not receive a favourable decision on March 30, 2012. Mr. Delisle was refused bail by Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Beach and ordered to stay in custody pending his trial. A ban on publication was imposed at the bail hearing and therefore the reasons for dismissing the bail application is unknown. Although Mr. Delisle’s lawyer stated he was “disappointed” albeit not surprised with the decision, there is no word whether or not he will be reviewing the decision in superior court. In the meantime, Mr. Delisle will return to court on May 8, presumably to set a date for trial. Delisle’s lawyer has commented on the case, indicating Delisle is not accused of endangering military troops as a result of his alleged espionage. There is some suggestion Delisle, at the time of the commission of the offence, was heavily into online gaming and had a “computer addiction,” which may have lead to monetary difficulties. For further discussion, read my Spy vs. Spy blog and my blog entitled Let’s Talk About: Diplomatic Immunity. For further reading on the Whatcott cases, read my blogs Law, Literature, and Inherit The Wind, The Road Taken By The Supreme Court of Canada, A Message of Tolerance, Limits of Expression, and Whatcott in The Courts Again.



Let’s Talk About: Diplomatic Immunity

In a previous posting, I discussed spying in Canada with reference to the newest case involving Jeffery Delisle; a Canadian Naval officer charged with both Criminal Code and Security of Information Act offences for allegedly disclosing state secrets to a foreign entity. Mr. Delisle is in custody awaiting a bail hearing, which is now scheduled for February 28, 2012. In the wake of the scandal, is the increasingly number of Russian diplomats leaving the country, as two more have left, bringing the total to six embassy workers whose “contracts” have not been “renewed.”

These hasty departures bring to mind the issue of diplomatic immunity, a generic term used to describe the governmental policy of extending legal immunity to foreign diplomats residing in the host country. Such protection ensures that diplomats do not face criminal prosecution or civil liability under the host state’s legal system. Instead, the host country can “expel” the rule-breaking diplomat from the country.

This special form of immunity comes from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), which Canada ratified in 1966 and implements through the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. The purpose behind diplomatic immunity, which initially arose hundreds of years ago through custom and practice, is to ensure diplomats can freely and independently execute their duties to their country without undue influence from the host nation. The key to such a policy is reciprocity and certainly Canadian diplomats in foreign countries enjoy the privileges and benefits of diplomatic immunity.

The result is less than salutary for the host country, as diplomats are people and, as such, break rules, as people are wont to do. The difficulty is when the rule breaking amounts to a criminal offence. If the crime is deemed serious enough, the diplomat’s home country may waive immunity and the culprit can be brought to justice in the visiting state. Typically, this happens when the incident is outside of the diplomatic duties. Thus, in the Delisle case, if any diplomats in Canada were involved in the breaches of security, they would be protected by diplomatic immunity. The only recourse would be expulsion or, perhaps, a non-renewal of their “contracts.”

There is another point to keep in mind: a waiver of diplomatic immunity can only be done by the country and not by the individual involved. The diplomat has no authority or decision-making power on the issue of waiver. If the home country, for whatever reason, determines the diplomat must face the music, so to speak, in the foreign country, then the diplomat will face prosecution there. Alternately, the home country can recall the diplomat and prosecute the diplomat at home.

This was the case with Andrey Knyazev, the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canada, who in 2001 drove onto a sidewalk in Ottawa, killing prominent lawyer Catherine MacLean. According to the police reports, Knyazev was so drunk at the time; he could barely walk or speak. The then Russian ambassador to Canada, Vitaly Churkin, refused to waive diplomatic immunity in the case, opting instead to try the offender in Russia. Churkin is presently the Russian envoy to the United Nations.

In 2002, Knyazev was tried in Russia for involuntary manslaughter while impaired. The maximum sentence for the offence was five years imprisonment as opposed to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in Canada. The outcome of the case was uncertain as Knyazev, citing his diplomatic immunity, refused to provide a Breathalyzer sample. Although an Ottawa police officer, who first arrived on the scene, testified, witnesses to the actual incident were lacking.

According to Knyazev’s evidence at trial, he was not drunk, he feared entrapment by the police, the driving conditions were poor, and MacLean was walking on the street. However, the Russian prosecutor presented Canadian police records that showed Knyazev had been involved in a total of four traffic accidents over a two-year period and was intoxicated in two of the incidents. Due to diplomatic immunity, Knyazev had not been charged for those previous events.

Knyazev was ultimately convicted and was sentenced to four years imprisonment. Knyazev appealed sentence and pleaded for a suspended sentence. The appeals court rejected the argument and Knyazev was sent to a Siberian Penal Colony to serve his sentence.

In the aftermath of the case, Canada implemented in 2001 a zero tolerance toward diplomatic impaired driving. According to the Foreign Affairs website, the revised policy is as follows:

The policy provides that diplomats will lose their driving privileges for a first instance of impaired driving. The loss of privilege will occur on the basis of a police report substantiating that a diplomat was driving while impaired. The Department encourages police forces to lay charges for impaired driving, but will take action regardless of whether charges are laid. In most cases, the driving privileges will be suspended for one year. 

In the case of a second instance of impaired driving, or a first offence involving death or injury, the policy provides for the diplomat to be recalled or expelled. … Since Canada cannot directly sanction diplomats under these international rules, the loss of driving privileges will be effected following a waiver of immunity by the diplomat's state or, alternatively, through a written undertaking by the Head of Mission pledging that the diplomat will not drive. Should a state refuse to exercise either of these options, the Department will request that the diplomat be recalled or will expel him or her.

Consistent with this policy, in 2005, three diplomats in Ottawa were investigated for impaired driving and received driving suspensions. The diplomats’ names were not released.

Despite the nomenclature attached to this revised policy, one of zero tolerance, diplomats do not face the full force of Canadian law and are subject only to driving suspensions. Certainly, this “punishment” is minimal compared to the stigma and deterrence of a criminal trial, conviction, and sentence.

It appears the government’s “let’s get tough with diplomats” stance is superficial at best. Even with the revised policy, diplomats commit offences in Canada and simply leave the country, never to return or face justice. Although the policy reasons behind such immunity are reasonable, one wonders if there is a better way to ensure diplomatic independence without sacrificing public safety. Considering our core values, which require acceptance of responsibility and consequences to those who choose to breach criminal laws, diplomatic immunity should be re-visited and revised to bring this ancient custom into the 21st century.  

Spy Vs. Spy

Spying, once a remnant of the Cold War as dramatized in John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and now a major motion picture complete with authentic seventies gear, is now back in the news and our psyche. Tales of spoiled Arctic sovereignty and clandestine meetings is presently all over the media as a result of the charges laid against naval officer, Jeffery Delisle, for allegedly disclosing state secrets to a foreign entity under s. 16(1) of the newly enacted Security of Information Act. These are the first charges under this Act. He is also charged under s. 122 of the Criminal Code for breach of trust in connection with his duties. Mr. Delisle is still in custody awaiting a bail hearing, now scheduled for January 25.

The charging document for the offences, the Information, which contains the specific charges against Delisle allege the offences under s.122 of the Criminal Code and s.16(1) of the Security of Information Act occurred between July 6th, 2007 and January 13, 2012 in Ottawa, Kingston, Halifax, and Bedford. Another charge under s.16(1) suggests a separate incident of communicating safeguarded information occurred between January 10, 2012 and January 13, 2012 in Halifax and Bedford, Nova Scotia. Delisle was arrested by RCMP on January 14. One can speculate that RCMP surveillance observed the January 10 to 13 transaction, which then lead to the charges. Delisle lives in Bedford.

Although the Government is not revealing any information on the charges, experts in intelligence suggest Russia is involved. This seemed to be confirmed by four Russian diplomats leaving Canada, but recent reports suggest some of these men left for other reasons and were not expelled from the country. This whodunit will most certainly be played out in the media for weeks to come. Indeed, CBC already has created a time-line of significant espionage events in Canada. Most the incidents involve China and Russia but do not involve the laying of criminal charges.

In fact, there is a paucity of charges relating to spying in Canada. There are cases of individuals who are not admitted on the basis of espionage. Under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act, individuals who are found to be “engaging in an act of espionage or an act of subversion against a democratic government, institution or process as they are understood in Canada” in accordance with s. 34(1)(a) are inadmissible into Canada. There are also cases of leaking secret information within Canada. The O’Neill case involved the investigation of Juliet O’Neill, an Ottawa journalist, who wrote a news article concerning Maher Arar, who was deported illegally by the USA to Syria where he was tortured. Subsequent information revealed that Canadian authorities had provided information, which lead to his improper rendition.

O’Neill’s home was searched by the RCMP under the very same piece of legislation with which Delisle is charged: the Security of Information Act. The allegation involved the leaking of secret official information under s.4 of the Act. Justice Ratushny found “the allegation of criminality against O’Neill in the Warrants that is the abusive conduct in this case and that amounts to an intimidation of the press and an infringement of the constitutional right of freedom of the press” and therefore the obtaining and execution of the Warrants offended “the public’s sense of decency and fairness and does undermine the integrity of the judicial process.” Juliet is now the media contact for Oxfam Canada.

The first Official Secrets Act was enacted on the heels of the British counterpart in 1890, which was eventually subsumed into the Criminal Code. On the eve of World War II, the official Official Secrets Act was enacted and remained in force until it was finally replaced by the Security of Information Act in 2001 after years of criticism. It was the 1969 Mackenzie Commission or the Royal Commission on Security, which described the Official Secrets Act as "an unwieldy statute, couched in very broad and ambiguous language.” Despite this call for reform, the Act was not dismantled for thirty years. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, there were only 22 Canadian prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act. The most notable case, involving virtually half of the 22 prosecutions, was as a result of the revelations of Igor Gouzenko in 1945. Gouzenko, who was working in the Russian Embassy in Canada as a cipher clerk, fled the Embassy and defected with over a hundred documents proving there was a Russian spy network in Canada. He lived in hiding in Ontario until his death in 1982 and is considered “the man who started the Cold War.”

Now, some 67 years later, we are back to the beginning. It is a new and improved Act but there is, or may be, Russians involved. No Cold War but perhaps the cold shoulder as a result of the incident. Which brings me to the title of this posting: Spy Vs. Spy. This past October was the 50th Anniversary of this dynamic or, shall we say, dysfunctional duo. Spying, it appears has been around a long time, and by all evidence, appears to be here to stay, whatever the climate.