Lions and lawyers and rights, oh my …

One of the details emerging from the bail hearings held yesterday for 15 of the 17 people charged in the recent terrorist sting here is a bit disturbing. Yesterday's bail hearing's were postponed, essentially because defence lawyers had been given no time to confer with clients, and very limited information on the specifics of the charges against their clients. Several lawyers for defendants arrested over the weekend have expressed concern today, on Newsworld, that they have still not been given the opportunity to speak privately with clients … instead, all communication has been through glass, over a prison phone, with guards present.

Canada is a country supposedly governed by the rule of law, and one of the cornerstones of that is that ALL defendants require the best defence available.  Lawyer/client confidentiality is a key element of this, and so far, from what I have seen in the media, these defendants have been given no chance to speak privately with lawyers, and that is a severe violation of theri rights in this process.

W hat I find distressing is that I can't see what benefit we gain from keeping them from their lawyers?  Do the police involved not realize its an immediate reason to question the motives and fairness of any upcoming trial?  Do people the lawyers are conspiring with their client, and so the criminal conspiracy will be furthered by talking privately?  Those are VERY serious allegations that need to be proven before they can be claimed, and they'll be followed by the lawyer themselves being charged as well.

There is only one way that this can go forward properly … a criminal trial where these accused defandants are tried under the rule of law.  That means they are offorded the same rights as any other criminal in Canada.  The right to face their accusers and the evidence against them … so far, it seems key details of the charges are being kept from defendants and defence attorney's.  The right to council … so far, it seems that private consultations between lawyers and clients are not permitted, and that is a severe breach of the rights of the accused.

Part of the issue is media attention, and I think keeping details out of the media is probably a good idea.  If it was only reporters complaining about lack of information or access, I'd have little problem here.  What concerns me is that defence attorney's of accused men, people who by law are required to be 'part of the loop' are complaining about being forced to talk to clients with guards present.  It doesn't matter what these men are charged with … they have the right to speak privately with lawyers.

Canada is supposedly still governed by the rule of law, and the rule of law is plenty strong to deal with this case.  Let these men talk to their lawyers, and make sure the lawyers have the information they need to do their jobs.  If we don't treat these guys just like any other accused men, innocent till proven guilty, entitled to a lawyer, a fair trial, and all that jazz, then it doesn't matter that we caught them early.  Sure, we may have saved a few lives by stopping the explosion, but we've already conceded our rights, and as such the whole damn 'war on terror' to the 'enemy.'  Because what DOES seperate us from them is just that … the rule of law and all that jazz.  Lets make sure we don't lose the war while we make so much effort fighting the battles.  

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