A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that Jamie Bacon’s rights were breached when phone calls with his lawyer were recorded in 2009.
The decision brings to an end court proceedings which began in September 2009 over Bacon’s claims that he was subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” while in custody at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre.
Bacon, formerly of Abbotsford, is currently serving a three-year eight-month jail sentence for weapons offences and is awaiting trial on one count of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the Surrey Six slayings.
He was moved to a federal prison in February 2011, but will return to the pretrial centre if his murder trial has not begun by the time he finishes serving his sentence on the weapons charges.
The bulk of the case over jail conditions was decided in June 2010, when Justice Mark McEwan, in a scathing 103-page ruling, agreed that Bacon’s rights had been violated when he was held in solitary confinement and locked down 23 hours a day, and his phone privileges and visits were curtailed without reason.
During the court proceedings, it came to light that all of Bacon’s calls to his lawyer Kimberly Eldred had been recorded without their knowledge during an eight-month period in 2009.
McEwan ruled on the other issues, ordering in June 2010 that Bacon’s visiting, mail and phone privileges be restored, but the matter of the taped phone calls was dealt with in several more hearings, held earlier this year.
McEwan rendered his decision Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
He said the taping of the phone calls was a breach of client-solicitor privilege and, when combined with the other issues, was “hazardous to (Bacon’s) psychological health and integrity.”
It had been the position of the authorities at Surrey Pretrial Centre that the calls were accidentally recorded due to a technical error and that the problem had been rectified.
However, McEwan said it appears the phone system remains vulnerable to abuse, and this remains a “significant concern” if Bacon is returned to the centre.
“In the deprived circumstances of even a lawfully managed remand centre, inmates must not suffer the insecurity of worrying that their privileged calls might be recorded,” McEwan stated.
He ruled that Bacon must be provided with a phone system for calls to his lawyer that is “not vulnerable to breaches of solicitor-client privilege, intentional or accidental.”
He also ordered that any recordings of the previously taped calls still in the possession of the Surrey Pretrial Centre be turned over, and that Bacon’s legal costs be covered.