Cornwall Standard Freeholder
15 September 2007
Posted By Terri Saunders
Letters were sent to the group this past Monday suggesting Ledroit Beckett, the London, Ont.-based law firm which has represented them since before hearings began nearly two years ago, is in a conflict of interest in relation to Dunlop and will not be asking him any questions.
The letter, obtained Friday by the Standard-Freeholder, was sent to the group members by Dallas Lee, an attorney with the firm. Lee informed his clients his firm “briefly represented” both Dunlop and his wife, Helen, for a short period in early 2005.
“The Dunlops retained us in the context of this proceeding (the inquiry),” Lee wrote, “and we are therefore now in a conflict of interest position vis-…-vis the Dunlops as witnesses.”
Lee goes on to suggest any group members who wish to participate in the cross-examination of Dunlop should find another lawyer to represent them at the hearings.
“We strongly advise you to consider retaining independent counsel to represent the interests of The Victims Group during the testimony of the Dunlops,” Lee wrote.
“We will, of course, assist you in any way possible should you wish to retain independent counsel for this purpose, including assisting with an application for supplemental funding, if necessary.”
On Friday, Lee laid the blame for the short notice squarely at the feet of commission counsel.
“We have never had any reason to believe they (Dunlops) were coming,” said Lee.
“The message we have been getting from commission counsel from the very beginning was that (they) would not be coming.”
Peter Engelmann, lead commission counsel, said Friday all counsel, including Lee, were aware of the fact commission staff have been steadily working almost since the inquiry began on securing in-person testimony from the Dunlops.
“They (counsel) were kept abreast of the ongoing efforts to ensure the Dunlops came to the inquiry,” said Engelmann.
“We always said we were working on bringing them here and that we were always hopeful they would, at some point, testify.”
Engelmann said Friday the commission had received no formal confirmation from anyone with Ledroit Beckett about the conflict, although there was a phone conversation between Lee and another commission counsel, Pierre Dumais, Friday morning about the situation.
When asked on Friday whether his firm had intended to formally notify the commission of the conflict, Lee said no such action would be taken.
“This is not a commission issue,” said Lee, “and frankly, it’s not any of their business.”
Lee said the matter is between the law firm and its clients and only them.
“Commission counsel is not privy to the relationship we had with the Dunlops or with any of our current clients,” said Lee.
“We will not be cross-exaining the Dunlops and that’s all we’re going to say. Nobody is entitled to anything more than that.”