Constitutional arguments in the case of Winston Blackmore, a polygamous leader near Creston, B.C., are underway in Cranbrook Supreme Court. Trevor Crawley photo

Bountiful polygamist believed he couldn’t be prosecuted: lawyer

Winston Blackmore’s lawyer says Blackmore did not believe he could be prosecuted

The lawyer for a British Columbia man found guilty of marrying two dozen women says his client believed he could not be prosecuted for polygamy.

Winston Blackmore’s attorney, Blaire Suffredine, was in B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook on Wednesday, arguing that a provincial attorney general in the early 1990s issued a statement that said charging an individual with polygamy would breach their charter rights.

“His statement, that this is the law and this is what we will enforce and this is what we won’t enforce … is a clear statement that everyone in British Columbia, including Mr. Blackmore, can rely on,” Suffredine said.

The statement followed an RCMP investigation in Bountiful, B.C., where the court has heard residents follow the tenants of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a sect that condones plural or “celestial” marriage.

Related: Winston Blackmore’s appeal of polygamy charge underway

Blackmore, a leader in the small community, was found guilty earlier this year of one count of polygamy after the court heard he had married 24 women, including three who were 15 years old at the time.

His co-accused, James Oler, was found guilty of having five wives.

Blackmore is asking for a stay of the proceedings and an exemption from prosecution based on his religious beliefs. If he is convicted, Blackmore is asking for an absolute discharge.

The convictions have not be entered pending the outcome of the constitutional arguments.

Related: Winston Blackmore and James Oler found guilty of polygamy in landmark B.C. trial

Suffredine argued on Wednesday that Blackmore’s unions were never legal marriages, but common-law relationships sanctioned by Blackmore’s religious beliefs, which carry no legal weight.

“Mr. Blackmore believes his actions were lawful, so he can’t possibly have the intent to commit a crime,” Suffredine said. “He testified to this, that the ceremonies were common-law unions, and he understood that to be legal.”

Closing arguments in the case are expected to be heard on Thursday.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Katrine Conroy
Katrine Conroy declared winner in Kootenay West

Preliminary results put NDP candidate firmly in the lead.

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read