Blackmore sues B.C. for unlawful prosecution

Bountiful, Canada - A B.C. religious leader who was charged with polygamy last year is suing the provincial government for damages due to "unlawful" prosecution.

The charges against Winston Blackmore, one of two warring leaders of a fundamentalist Mormon sect in the Bountiful community of southeastern B.C., were quashed in September.

In his lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Mr. Blackmore claimed that the attorney general's ministry acted in a manner that was "high-handed, arbitrary, reckless, abusive, improper and inconsistent with the honour of the Crown and the administration of justice."

Mr. Blackmore, who has at least 25 wives and 101 children, said he became "deeply indebted" to his lawyers after charges were laid and he had to travel to Vancouver on at least one occasion to attend a hearing.

"As a result of the pending charges, Blackmore suffered business and other financial losses and he and his family were put under extreme stress and anxiety," said a statement of claim.

The charges against Mr. Blackmore were recommended initially by special prosecutor Terry Robertson .

The charges were dropped in September, when a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the attorney general did not have the power to appoint Mr. Robertson as a special prosecutor.

"Theattorney generalintended to create the illusion that the decision to prosecute was that of the special prosecutor," said Mr. Blackmore's lawsuit. "In fact, the attorney general only accepted Mr. Robertson's decision because it reflected the result he personally sought."

Ad hoc prosecutor Len Doust and special prosecutor Richard Peck, both high-profile criminal defence lawyers, had earlier declined to press charges against Mr. Blackmore.

Mr. Blackmore, who was charged along with his rival James Oler, claimed that the charges violated his rights to freedom of religion.

In October, B.C. Attorney General Mike de Jong asked the B.C. Supreme Court to clarify the controversial polygamy laws, and rule on whether they violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Blackmore is asking for his legal fees, disbursements and expenses as well as travel costs and accommodation expenses. He also wants unspecified general, aggravated, punitive and special damages.

Shawn Robins, a spokesman for the attorney general, had no comment on the Blackmore lawsuit.