Justice

J. Leask: Questions of perspicacity and impartiality

Two Hells Angels called ‘pawns of police’ get short sentences for drug trafficking, Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun, March 12, 2010

Vancouver — Two Hells Angels members received short jail sentences Friday of one year and 14 months for serious drug trafficking offences.

B.C. Justice Peter Leask decided a number of mitigating factors would reduce the sentences of Hells Angels members John Virgil Punko and Randy Richard Potts, including Potts’ chronic back pain and a recurring abscess on his buttocks that causes him considerable pain and discomfort.

The judge sentenced Potts to one year in jail, which was much less than the 12 years requested by federal prosecutor Martha Devlin.

Punko, 43, was handed a 14-month sentence. The Crown had asked for 16 years…

Since Potts and Punko, Justice Leask has been confined to commercial litigation and reviews of provincial court decisions. It is worth asking why he still sits on the bench of the Supreme Court. But, we’ve seen corruption of justice in the BC Supreme Court’s handling of BC Rail and Basi/Virk. Citizens should be able to have unquestioned faith in perhaps the most fundamental element of democracy. Without true justice, democracy cannot function.

The following article was first published at Northern Insights  January 15, 2011
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Decisions of Supreme Court judges are subject to review by higher courts and it is unusual for appeal judgments to result in questions about a trial judge’s perspicacity and impartiality. It is even more unusual when numerous appeal decisions indicate repeating patterns of questionable determinations.

This week, the BC Appeal Court quadrupled the sentence Justice Peter Leask issued to Hells Angel Randy Potts for producing and trafficking in methamphetamine, trafficking in cocaine and possessing the proceeds of crime. John Punko, Potts’ co-accused, had his sentence more than quadrupled by the appeal court last August.

The written reasons by Madam Justice Rowles include these findings regarding the sentencing of Potts:

  • Justice Leask failed to apply the fundamental principle in sentencing: a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.
  • Leask gave dubious mitigating factors such weight that they overshadowed the “important goals of denunciation and deterrence of very serious crimes.”
  • Leask’s errors resulted in an unfit sentence.

The appeal court has previously found that Justice Leask failed to give reasonably sufficient weight to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence in a case involving Hells Angels. In the decision on the appeal of John Punko’s sentence, Justice K. Smith declared:

“In overlooking the fact that the conspirators distributed a very large quantity of methamphetamine into the illegal drug market and in failing to appreciate the harm this distribution inevitably caused, the trial judge [Leask] erred in principle in his assessment of the gravity of Mr. Punko’s offence. This error led him to give insufficient weight to denunciation and deterrence, which are the primary sentencing factors on this offence.”

Justice Leask earlier had tossed out charges that alleged Potts and Punko committed their drug crimes for the benefit of a criminal organization — the East End Hells Angels. Neal Hall of the Vancouver Sun reported in 2009:

“A B.C. Supreme Court judge dealt a devastating blow to police and prosecutors Friday, when he ruled the Crown is prohibited from proceeding on criminal-organization charges against two Hells Angels members.

“Justice Peter Leask decided to grant a defence application that the Crown cannot proceed at trial on charges that allege the East End chapter of the Hells Angels is a criminal organization. ‘My decision is the Crown is stopped from leading evidence that the East End charter Hells Angels is a criminal organization,’ the judge ruled. ‘Well, what are we going to do next?’ Leask then said, smiling, after making his six-second decision.”

In another case involving an alleged associate of the Hells Angels, Justice Leask ruled that Nima Ghavami’s rights had been violated due to an unreasonable delay. The judge blamed prosecutors for much of the delay. Prosecutors appealed the ruling, arguing that Leask had made a number of errors. In March 2010,  the Court of Appeal overruled Leask’s order of acquittal and ordered a new trial.

In 2007, acting on public complaints, the Canadian Judicial Council reviewed Justice Leask’s behavior in the cocaine trafficking trial of Hells Angel Glen Hehn. The Judicial Conduct Committee found that Leask tarnished the reputation of the Court and the judiciary. Other than stating publicly that Leask had brought discredit on the judiciary and showed disrespect toward the Court, no action was taken by the CJC.

The Vancouver Sun acquired a transcript of the trial and the Sun reported:

“. . . as federal prosecutor Ernie Froess made his closing submissions in the case, Leask used profanity four times, according to a transcript obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

“When Froess argued that the locker where a large volume of cocaine was located was rented by Hehn, Leask said:

‘But to be really clear, he’d have had to have been out of his f. . .in’ mind to store it in his own locker, all right? I mean, that’s for sure he wouldn’t do that. Let’s not spend any time on that theory.’ “

Leask found Glen Jonathan Hehn not guilty, saying he found Hehn, a full-patch member of the elite Nomads chapter of the Angels, “to be a good witness.”

In 2008, Leask acquitted Larry Crocker of multiple charges after finding fault with RCMP investigation practices. The North Shore News reported,

“Crocker was busted in February 2007 essentially by chance after he took off while being investigated for drug dealing near Lonsdale Avenue. Police followed Crocker’s trail to a penthouse apartment in Burnaby where they eventually discovered large amounts of counterfeit money, along with a dismantled marijuana grow operation, stolen identification and equipment for producing fake documents including stolen Interac card swipe devices and rolls of thin foil used to add fake security features to the counterfeit money. An additional search of a storage locker in the apartment building revealed a huge sum of both cut and uncut counterfeit bills, as well as more stolen mail, identification, and both fake and real credit cards. When Crocker was arrested, police found he was carrying several stolen credit cards, $26,000 of counterfeit money, 1.7 grams of crystal meth and 58 grams of marijuana as well as notebooks with entries about other people’s banking and credit card information.”

The Appeal Court overturned Croker’s acquittal in 2009. In Reasons written by Madam Justice D. Smith, trial judge Peter Leask was found to have erred repeatedly. In one example, Leask rejected a police officer’s testimony but,

“reached this conclusion, not based on Cst. Frye’s evidence, but from some speculative reasoning that Cst. Frye could not have had an honest belief as to the identity of the individual he arrested. . . There was a plethora of evidence to support Cst. Frye’s belief, both subjectively and objectively . . . “

Crown also argued the trial judge erred in finding that search of a stolen truck in Crocker’s possession was unreasonable because of his expectation of privacy in the vehicle. The appeal held what seems rather obvious, that an individual could not have a privacy right when he had no lawful right to possess the vehicle. Leask also had excluded police evidence because of what he said was “a pattern of disrespect of Charter rights” based on the sheer number of unreasonable searches that he found. The appeal concluded, however, that there were significantly fewer Charter breaches than found by the trial judge. Sadly, this list of errors is not complete, based on Reasons for Judgement.

In 2009, Justice Leask acquitted Robert Della Penna and three co-accused on all counts after the former boxer was accused of heading an international drug trafficking ring. The judge found two senior RCMP officers lied to the court.

The blog Gangsters Out raises many issues involving Leask, drug trafficking and trials involving Hells Angels and associates. Search ‘Leask’ at the blog for more posts regarding the judge. I can not attest to material published there but even without those claims, I believe that Peter Leask’s judicial conduct should be carefully examined. In the meantime, he should not hear serious criminal cases involving the drug trade.

Categories: Justice

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14 replies »

  1. This is a an excellent piece of journalism. The public needs to know about these matters.

    The serial misconduct of Judge Leask would appear to indicate that there is no body regularly overseeing the conduct of the judicial branch of our government, and therefore the only means of redress is to appeal a decision.

    Few people have the money to appeal a court decision, or to muster an appeal in the time limits provided for appeal. I speak from experience in Chambers applications to the court (civil proceedings which take place without a jury, before a judge alone).

    Some may argue that the Canadian Judicial Council is the body that oversees the conduct of judges, but it only acts if someone brings a complaint, it doesn't conduct regular reviews of judges' conduct. Moreover the CJC is increasingly being viewed as an ineffective body, more interested in protecting judges, much like the Law Society is a body for protecting the interests of lawyers.

    Few people these days expect any meaningful response to a complaint from either the BC Law Society or from the Canadian Judicial Council, and many people don't even bother to lodge complaints with these bodies anymore, so tarnished have their reputations become.

    So appeal is the only avenue to hold judges accountable for their conduct and their decisions. And that's an expensive undertaking.

    Further evidence that our society is crumbling and in serious need of repair.

    A very important and interesting story. Thank you.

    Like

  2. I should have clarified my comments about the Canadian Judicial Council. While they did “act” on the complaints, they only action they took was to “tsk, tsk” Justice Leask.

    And look how much effect that had. Nothing. Zero effect.

    Justice Leask continued to merrily thwart and distort justice in later cases, for which the Appeal Court had to correct (at great cost to the public, and causing further backlog in the courts). And, he’s still sitting, ruling on cases, collecting a paycheque…. Why?

    Leask is a BC Supreme Court judge, yet this type of conduct is allowed to continue unabated – for years. Why?

    It does not speak well of the judiciary in BC, and nor does it speak well of the BC government, which should exert some oversight over the running of the courts, but apparently it can't even manage to keep court registry functions running properly.

    There has been no improvement in the attitude or service provided by court staff even though some of the routine day-to-day chaos in court registries was exposed a year ago in a series of articles by Victoria's Times Colonist newspaper. Nothing's changed. Files go inexplicably missing, administrative rules change on a whim from staff person to staff person, rules of court are ignored, and so on.

    Something is very rotten in the state of Denmark.

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  3. Good work Mr. Farrell. Maybe the moral,ethical compass of the judicairy can change. Imagine Mme. Mackenzie's BC Rail conduct being examined, case re-opened and the real decievers put out to pasture. Looks like since it is a complaint driven system, we all need to write a letter. Before the evidence that wasn't destroyed, that we paid big money to obtain gets returned to the crown to be “held”.

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  4. Thanks for posting this article, very enlightening and another eye opener of the disrespect shown the public and the totally out of control waste of hard earned tax dollars.
    It seem our task can be likened to cleaning a full sized sports arena with a tooth brush and glass of water. Sad
    Don F.

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  5. Thanks people for the comments. Canadian Canary once again adds worthwhile information that points to a major issue. The Judicial Council indeed did make a serious finding against Leask over an issue of inappropriate language that was itself fairly insignificant. However, he suffered no real consequence. The more important issues of his work relate to higher court reversals of his rulings. Not all are mentioned here, of course. They call into question his suitability to judge any matter whatsoever.

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  6. Canada is rampant with corruption. BC is the most corrupt province in Canada. The BC Liberals, are the most corrupt government in the entire country's history. Campbell is at the top of the food chain. He thieved and sold the BC citizens BCR. The trial, was a total farce. It is said, the corrupt sale, was in a corrupt court, presided over by a corrupt judge. After, one and a half witnesses, (one of which, seemed brain dead, the trial was stopped short. Basi and Virk, suddenly changed their plea, to guilty. By what they say, they aren't happy about it. Their good names and political careers, damaged forever. The new information coming to light, seems Campbell is the one, who should be on trial. Campbell is in a panic, to get all of the documents, the defense has in their hands. Those documents, we are in no doubt, will be shredded. They will go to, never, never land, as did the e-mails ordered to be destroyed went. The media and the RCMP, are a disgrace to their professions. They back the monster, Campbell to the hilt. This province is so corrupt, it's sickening. It is amazing, what some will sell their souls for. Lying, deceit, corruption, amongst all of them.

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  7. Anon 6:39…I agree with you, here's why…Justice Anne MacKenzie ruled that a full patch member of the Hells Angels (a 20 year member, with time in Quebec as well as the East End) who was up on cocaine charges in BC isn’t a member of a criminal organization. If I remember right, she said that calling the HA a criminal organization was only “speculation” on the part of the Crown. He walked on the drug charges, so she let him walk on the criminal organization charge too. Let it not be said the common sense can be found anywhere in the BCSC.

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  8. This is only the beginning of the end for Leask and the halfwit justices that the majority of voters believe are corrupt and under the influence of organized crime and it's money and intimidation in B.C. They should be investigated for serious breaches of the justice system here in B.C. and the rest of Canada. Why do we trust these people without knowing what makes them do what they do in their so called world of justice.

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  9. As Canadian Canary said, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The quote of course, is from Shakespeare's Hamlet, but it pains me since I was born there and it seemingly gives Danes everywhere a black eye.

    But indeed, there is something seriously amiss here. It's absolutely astounding that this judge continues to hear cases. And the BC Law Society does nothing?!

    If one can't trust the group responsible for the oversight of the behaviour of BC lawyers, is there ANYWHERE that citizens can place their trust?! It only reinforces the perception that corruption is rampant.

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  10. Some may see the lax sentences as a way of rewarding the only group which seems to be into job creation in B.C. Now of course cocaine isn't exactly a drug without ill effects and the people who supply and ship it aren't exactly model citizens but they do have an awful lot of money and as my mother always told me, money talks, there is one rule of law for the rich and another for the poor.

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