Gas-plants judge dis­qual­i­fies key Crown ‘ex­pert’ wit­ness as non-in­de­pen­dent

Truro Daily News - - CANADA -

The case against two for­mer top po­lit­i­cal aides in On­tario ac­cused of il­le­gally de­stroy­ing emails in the premier’s of­fice took a se­ri­ous blow Thurs­day when the judge ruled a key pros­e­cu­tion wit­ness could not tes­tify as an ex­pert.

The wit­ness, a for­mer pro­vin­cial po­lice of­fi­cer, was sim­ply too close to in­ves­ti­ga­tors and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion known as Project Ham­p­den to of­fer im­par­tial ev­i­dence as legally re­quired, On­tario court Judge Ti­mothy Lip­son ruled.

Lip­son noted Robert (Bob) Gagnon, a re­tired po­lice com­puter spe­cial­ist, was in­te­grally in­volved in in­ves­ti­gat­ing and pros­e­cut­ing David Liv­ingston and Laura Miller, even at one point sug­gest­ing one of the three charges laid against them. The pair has pleaded not guilty.

“There re­ally was no sep­a­ra­tion be­tween Mr. Gagnon and the Project Ham­p­den in­ves­ti­ga­tors,” Lip­son said. “Over time, he be­came an im­por­tant mem­ber of the Project Ham­p­den team.”

The pros­e­cu­tion had wanted Gagnon to tes­tify as an ex­pert wit­ness against Liv­ingston and Miller, chief of staff and deputy to for­mer Lib­eral premier Dal­ton McGuinty. As an ex­pert, he could have of­fered his opinion on the ev­i­dence. But the de­fence said he didn’t meet the test of in­de­pen­dence, im­par­tial­ity and free­dom from bias.

It cited his ex­ten­sive in­volve­ment in the probe vir­tu­ally from the start, when in­ves­ti­ga­tors set him up with a separate com­puter foren­sics lab­o­ra­tory at pro­vin­cial po­lice head­quar­ters.

The separate fa­cil­ity, Lip­son said, was an ap­pro­pri­ate step, but turned out to be the “only one.” His in­volve­ment “ex­panded rapidly over time” to the point where he be­came an im­por­tant re­source for the in­ves­tiga­tive team, the judge said.

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