The Bountiful evidence review long time coming

(Dear Readers, My guess is that the fax referred to in this article was not passed on. When I obtained the unredacted and redacted list of 31 underaged girls trafficked from Bountiful to the States for forced, underage marriage,  I was asked by the RCMP to forward the unredacted list to them in Vancouver.  The lists I obtained came from Texas!)

By Daphne Bramham
Vancouver Sun

January 10, 2012

Nearly a year after lawyers in the B.C. attorney-general’s minis-try learned the details of how a father from Bountiful delivered his 13-year-old daughter into a forced, polygamous marriage with the now-jailed prophet of a fundamentalist Mormon sect, Attorney-General Shirley Bond has instructed that a special prosecutor be appointed to look into the evidence.

Among the charges the prosecutor may consider are human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, sexual assault and procurement.

It’s welcome news. Still, one can’t help wonder why it’s taken so long.

The evidence has been kicking around since September 2008. That’s when a team leader in the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development got a fax from Texas following a raid on the compound built by Prophet Warren Jeffs.

The 13-year-old Canadian girl is one of Jeffs’s 79 wives and one of his 24 wives who were under the age of 18. She was among nearly 400 women and children taken into government care. Texas officials thought some-body in B.C. might want to do some-thing about it.

Apparently, no one in B.C. did. And it’s never been clear whether the fax was passed on.

Last January that fax re-surfaced in the midst of the constitutional reference case. Lawyers for the B.C. attorney-general heard about it after they began pressing Texas for help.

In February, the lawyers filed the details of the 13-year-old’s surreptitious entry into the United States along with information about two, 12-year-old Canadian girls being taken by their parents and forced to marry Jeffs in an affidavit and presented it as part of the B.C. government evidence in the constitutional reference case.

By March the list of Canadians involved in the trafficking had grown to include the names of 31 under-aged girls, the names of their fathers/ mothers/brothers who had delivered them into religious marriages and the names of their husbands.

Some of that information taken from Jeffs’s diaries and other church documents seized in the 2008 raid was used to send Jeffs to jail for life-plus-20-years and to convict nine other top-ranking members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of sexual offences involving children.

Bond’s press release Monday hints at the convoluted history of the B.C. government’s attempts to prosecute members of the Bountiful community.

The first attempt in the 1990s was stymied by lawyers in the criminal justice branch who had opinions from at least one former chief justice that the anti-polygamy law was unconstitutional. They recommended nothing be done until the constitutional question was cleared up. Presented with new evidence after another RCMP investigation in 2006, the criminal justice branch of the attorney-general’s ministry refused to lay any charges. Again, the concern was that the anti-polygamy law might not be valid.

Instead of accepting that advice, then-attorney-general Wally Oppal instructed Bob Gillen, the assistant deputy attorney-general, to hire a special prosecutor. Gillen hired Richard Peck, who in 2007 recommended a constitutional reference to determine whether the anti-polygamy law was valid.

Oppal disagreed. Lawyer Len Doust was hired to review Peck’s recommendation and agreed with Peck and the AG‘s lawyers.

Oppal asked that another special prosecutor – Terry Robertson – be hired. Robertson recommended that two of Bountiful’s leaders be charged with one count each of polygamy.

But those charges were stayed by a B.C. Supreme Court justice, who ruled that there could be only one special prosecutor and that was Peck.

So Bond had to ensure that Peck didn’t want to continue as special prosecutor to clear the deck for a new one.

But once again, the choice is Gillen’s. So, who will he hire this time? It can only be hoped that Bond is get-ting good advice and doesn’t make any mistakes that delay it any further.

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