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THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 2 M A R C H 2 0 1 7 185 On March 27, 1991 then Attorney General Russ Fraser instructed the Branch to adopt the majority of the recommendations from the inquiry. The Branch in turn requested that “legislation be drafted to encompass the recommendations and which would spell out the roles and responsibilities of the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Regional Crown Counsel and Crown Counsel”.7 The Act came into force on June 27, 1991. There are two significant features of the Act. First, it codifies the Branch’s authority over the approval and conduct of prosecutions. Second, it protects the Branch from improper political influence in individual cases. Two key recommendations were implemented: • In politically sensitive prosecutions, the Branch’s Assistant Deputy Attorney General (the “ADAG”) may appoint a “Special Prosecutor”. “Specials” make their decisions on prosecution files independent of the Branch and outside the immediate supervisory authority of the Attorney General. • In the rare case where the Attorney General does provide direction to the Branch on an individual prosecution, these directions must be in writing and published in the Gazette to ensure transparency. The Act also established the Branch’s responsibility for communications with the media and the public. This autonomy is relatively uncommon in government, where media relations are generally dealt with by a centralized government communication office. It enhances the Branch’s ability to be seen at arm’s length to government. For high-profile cases where a police investigation is publicly known, the inquiry recommended that the Branch issue a “clear statement of the reasons for not prosecuting … so as to maintain confidence in the integrity of the system.”8 The Branch has issued “Clear Statements” ever since. THE ACT AND PROSECUTORIAL INDEPENDENCE It is vitally important that British Columbians have confidence that the Branch operates independent of political influence. In conducting prosecutions, Crown counsel act as agents for the Attorney General. In this capacity, they take on the Attorney’s executive authority, and, like the Attorney, they must exercise this authority free from political influence: The gravity of the power to bring, manage and terminate prosecutions which lies at the heart of the Attorney General’s role has given rise to an expectation that he or she will be in this respect fully independent from the political pressures of the government. … It is a constitutional principle in this country that the Attorney General and therefore the Attorney’s agents must act independently of partisan concerns when supervising prosecutorial decisions.9


March Pages 2017
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