Mike Duffy trial: Defence argues Wikipedia documents defamatory

Mike Duffy's lawyer Donald Bayne focused Thursday morning on Wikipedia-related documents alleged to defame the now suspended senator after the Crown argued yesterday they should be admitted into evidence.

MPs testifying about Duffy's attendance at Conservative fundraising events

Suspended Senator Mike Duffy and his lawyer Donald Bayne arrive at the Ottawa courthouse for day 21 of Duffy's trial. 0:44

A series of posts and comments associated with suspended Senator Mike Duffy's Wikipedia entry are rife with "character assassination" and allegations of "discreditable" conduct, and should not be admitted as evidence, defence attorney Donald Bayne told Duffy's Senate expenses trial Thursday morning.

The Crown had attempted Wednesday to persuade Judge Charles Vaillancourt to add the documents to the official trial record due to concerns the contents had been inaccurately portrayed during Bayne's cross-examination of freelance journalist Mark Bourrie last month.

In his presentation to the judge, Crown attorney Jason Neubauer had argued that the defence had mischaracterized their contents as "vile and scurrilous."

But while Bayne maintained he hadn't actually had the chance to read the documents before questioning Bourrie, he reiterated his concern over permitting the material to be included in the public record.

The trial, in its 21st day Thursday, began April 7 in the Ontario court of justice in Ottawa. Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to expenses he claimed as a senator and later repaid with money from the prime minister's former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

During his initial appearance, Bourrie confirmed he had received a $500 cheque from a company associated with Duffy's associate, Gerald Donohue, after consulting Duffy about how to deal with internet trolls defaming his reputation.

Bayne, at the time, had suggested the comments about Duffy were so defamatory that "nobody deserves this kind of material on the public record."

But Neubauer argued on Wednesday that Bayne's portrayal of the Wikipedia material was simply inaccurate.

MPs testify about fundraising events

The court has also begun hearing from Conservative MPs who had invited Duffy to attend fundraising events in their ridings.

Kelowna Lake MP Ron Cannan told the court Duffy had been a guest at a dinner hosted by the local Conservative riding association on June 27, 2009.

A few days prior to the Kelowna, B.C., event, Duffy had been the main attraction at a similar event hosted by the Vancouver Island North Conservative riding association. 

Local Conservative MP John Duncan testified about that event on Wednesday and told the court Duffy had been invited to Comox, B.C., to give a speech and meet with local constituents. 

Later Thursday, the court heard from Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock Conservative MP Barry Devolin, whose riding association hosted a breakfast for local party members featuring Duffy as a special guest speaker on June 20, 2009. 

The Crown contends Duffy expensed travel claims for partisan activities that should not have been billed to the Senate.

Like his caucus colleagues, Devolin made it clear that he considered the breakfast to be a party event, and noted that he held a similar gathering at the end of the spring session each year in order to update local party members on the latest developments in Ottawa. 

But under cross-examination by Bayne, he acknowledged that he was unaware of the sweeping definition of "partisan" activities deemed to be part and parcel of a senator's public duties under the definition provided in the Senate administrative rules.

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With files from Mark Gollom