Manitoba

Manitoba prosecutor policy to be reviewed

The provincial justice minister promises to review the way Manitoba Justice hires independent lawyers to prosecute cases where police officers and others with direct connections to the criminal justice system are charged with crimes.

The provincial justice minister is promising to review the way Manitoba Justice hires independent lawyers to prosecute cases where police officers and others with direct connections to the criminal justice system are charged with crimes.

"Having confidence in the justice system is very important for Manitobans," Justice Minister Andrew Swan said.

"So we'll have a better discussion about independent prosecutors and where we should go. And if the policy isn't strong enough we'll find ways to strengthen it," he said.

Swan made the comment on the same day a Winnipeg police constable was acquitted of sexual assault charges. As well, two other Winnipeg officers were cleared of perjury charges just over a week ago.

Winnipeg lawyer Robert Tapper was hired to act as an independent Crown attorney for both cases.

Tapper has said he will appeal the Feb. 22 ruling that acquitted Consts. Jess Zebrun and Peter O'Kane of perjury and other charges.

But in the case of the officer cleared of sexual assault, Tapper said there are no grounds to appeal.

Swan said he will consult with the province's director of prosecutions to ensure Manitoba's system of retaining Crown independent Crown attorneys is the best possible.

Currently, Manitoba's policy on appointing independent prosecutors states that depending on the nature and circumstances of the case, there are four main ways of appointing lawyers to ensure the administration of justice isn't hampered.

They are:

  • The appointment of a Manitoba Crown attorney from a different Crown office.
  • Hiring a private lawyer based within Manitoba.
  • Reaching out to another province for Crown attorneys to be brought in
  • The appointment of a private lawyer from outside Manitoba.

In some recent cases, the justice department has chosen to reach outside provincial borders for experienced prosecutors..

In the ongoing second-degree murder case involving Marc Stobbe - who is accused of killing his wife - Beverley Rowbotham, the province arranged to have two Crown attorneys from British Columbia handle the case.

In another case involving a former Winnipeg officer convicted of sexually assaulting his ex-wife, Manitoba Justice hired a Crown attorney based in Edmonton.

The provincial policy on hiring independent prosecutors can be found here.