Court of Public Opinion Turns up the Heat: ‘Jamie Bacon Deserves to Fry’ (a law student perspective)
On October 19th 2007, 6 people were executed in a high-rise in Surrey, British Columbia. This event became infamously known as the “Surrey 6” murders. Four of the deceased were known drug dealers who owed the Red Scorpion gang $100,000. One victim was a neighbour who heard noise in the hallway and went to investigate. The final victim was delivering a package on that floor, and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The faces of the two civilian victims and their families were widely publicized for years to come. It struck a strong chord with the public.
The Surrey 6 Killings became the focal point of the gang war raging at this time; the faces of the three Bacon Brothers represented every gangster terrorizing the community and causing wide spread fear in the community.
Between 2007 and 2009, the metro Vancouver area became subject to a violent gang war largely fought between the Red Scorpions, and multiple rival criminal organizations including the UN Gang, the Independent Soldiers, and certain chapters of the Hells Angels.
On December 1st 2017 Jamie Bacon, the head of the Red Scorpion gang, had his charges of 1st degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder stayed. The two co-accused, found guilty of six counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, both testified that Bacon planned and coordinated the Surrey 6 murders. The stay of charges for Jamie Bacon has been viewed by the public to be a failure of the justice system.1
The media attention surrounding Bacon and these murders escalated the public nature of the violence, as well as the fear and anger associated with the gang war. It became a weekly occurrence for public places to become the setting of a daytime shoot-out between gangsters. There were numerous killings of innocent and unaffiliated civilians, which enraged and terrified the community.2
People have paid close attention to criminal proceedings against Jamie Bacon and they were very disappointed. The courts will not give the angry public a definitive reason for why a stay has been decided: “my reasons for entering the stay of proceedings must remain sealed.”3 There is a strong indication there was the need to protect at least one confidential informant.
The abbreviated ruling dedicated several paragraphs to discussing the importance of solicitor-client privilege in our legal system, the importance of litigation privilege, public interest privilege, and the importance of protecting police informers.4
The public interest privilege is about protecting police methods, not informing the public. In this abbreviated ruling, R v Thomas is cited which ruled that protecting “the public interest in effective police investigation and the protection of those involved in, or who assist in such investigation, outweigh the legitimate interests of the accused in the disclosure of the techniques.”5 Informing the public of court room proceedings is not mentioned in the abbreviated decision.
The British Columbia Attorney General’s public statement said, “When I learned of the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s decision to stay the charges for James Kyle Bacon, I was shocked, as I’m sure all British Columbians are right now. I write these words with tremendous disappointment. The families of the victims and all who have been impacted by this terrible crime deserve peace, and they will not find it today.”6
I am not arguing whether or not these essential rights and privileges must be upheld . The police need to be able to protect the identities of informants or the police would never be able to convince these individuals to testify. However, the relationship between the justice system and the public suffers when they are excluded from essential information of a controversial decision.
Can the protection of an informant also accommodate the needs of the public and the families of the victim(s)? Can the community and mourning loved ones’ respect that maintaining essential police investigation methods are essential to holding people like the Bacon Brothers accountable for their actions? The people in the Metro Vancouver area may have a difficult time appreciating civil liberties and necessity to protect an informant if it means Jamie Bacon will not face punishment. In the court of public opinion, Jamie Bacon has already been convicted of each of these 6 murders. By excluding them from the reasoning behind the decision the relationship between the courts and the public is strained.
The media attention placed on The Surrey 6 killings launched Jamie Bacon into the public consciousness. Each shooting and death that occurred would result in the recirculation of the names of the Bacon Brothers and the Surrey 6 Murders, linking them to violence regardless of whether they were actually associated at all. With all due respect to victims of the families, these murders are no more tragic than any of the other unaffiliated civilian deaths that occurred during this gang war, nor is Jamie Bacon especially more dangerous and violent compared to the other gangsters involved in this war. However, this is irrelevant in the community that is largely aware of only him and his organization, and the two innocent civilians executed on October 19th.
1 Hanomansing, Ian. CBC News British Columbia, “BC Judge who stayed murder charges in Surrey 6 case owes public an explanation: Legal Experts” CBC News, December 8th 2017. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/surrey-six-stay-charges-bacon-1.4438135
2 Bolan, Kim. Vancouver Sun, “Surrey Six: 2007 slaughter sparked a vicious gang war. The bodies are still piling up" 01.15.2015. http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Surrey+2007+slaughter+sparked+vicious+gang+bodies+still+piling/10250010/story.html
3 R v Bacon, 2017 BCSC 2207 at para 14. http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/22/2017BCSC2207.htm
5 See R. v. Thomas,  O.J. No. 1400 (H.C.J.) (at para. 10); Ibid at para 10. http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/22/2017BCSC2207.htm
6 BC Gov News “Attorney General Statement on James Kyle Bacon Judicial Stay” Victoria: December 1st 2017 https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017ag0044-002009