PMO/PCO Involvement in the Norman Trial

This story from CBC  that the Crown in the Norman case has been briefing PCO on trial strategy is outrageous. A Crown prosecutor, and I was one, has no client. Her job is to “to be objective, independent, and dispassionate”. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was created to ensure the

…independence of the prosecution decision-making function from inappropriate political control, direction and influence. It enshrines in legislation the quasi-constitutional principle of independence of the prosecution function from the partisan political process. (PPS Deskbook at pg. 2).

It is clear that the DPP should brief the Attorney General where a decision that she is going to make would be of general or public interest (Director of Public Prosecutions Act at s. 13). However, this does not lead to the discussion of trial strategy with PCO or PMO.

The involvement of PMO and PCO in the Normal trial has been disturbing from the beginning. This is only the most recent piece of evidence that they are involved up to their elbows in this prosecution. There has also been:

  1. Evidence from the Chief of Defence Staff that he briefed two of the Prime Minister’s most senior advisors on the day that VAdm Norman was relieved of his duties. There are no notes of that conversation. He also had dinner that evening with the same two advisors but, surprisingly, there was no discussion of relieving the second highest military officer.
  2. In April of 2017 the Prime Minister opined that the matters would likely end up in court and therefore he could not comment.
  3. In November of 2017 the government rejected VAdm Norman’s request for reimbursement of legal fees on the grounds that he disclosed confidential information to a third party. This is the very issue in the criminal trial that is underway which suggests that the government has already prejudged the outcome of the proceeding. Contrast this with the government’s choice to pay the legal fees of the RCMP officers involved in the Dziekanski death and then in the subsequent trials related to perjury (some of which resulted in conviction) before the Braidwood Inquiry.
  4. During a press conference in February of 2018, according to the Globe & Mail,  the Prime Minister commented that the case against VAdm Norman was “very much underway in terms of investigation and inevitably court processes.”

It should also be clear that there is no privilege in discussions that the DPP has with third parties. The DPP does not have a client. The DPP does not receive input on the conduct of the trial. The DPP does not take instructions from the investigating officer.

The involvement of PMO and PCO in the conduct of the Norman trial in the same period in which they are involving themselves in the SNC Lavalin matter betrays a willingness attempt to bend the administration of justice to the interest of the centre of government. This is not the way the rule of law is supposed to work.

Author: Tom Jarmyn