Special prosecutor to look into Bountiful

Vancouver Sun/June 6, 2007

Victoria -- A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into charges involving the Bountiful polygamous colony.

High-profile Vancouver criminal lawyer Richard Peck will conduct a review of the results of a police investigation into members of the community, the Criminal Justice Branch of the Attorney General said in a news release Wednesday.

RCMP investigators have been looking into charges of polygamy and other offences of a sexual nature and had submitted a charge recommendation report to the Crown last fall.

Controversy surrounding the sect has been going on for years.

The RCMP's charge assessment has already been reviewed by four senior Crown lawyers, including the assistant deputy attorney general for the branch, Robert Gillen.

The assessment then went to Attorney General Wally Oppal's office, but on May 31, he asked for another review from a senior lawyer from the private bar, the branch said in its release.

Oppal asked that the lawyer look into "consideration of any and all potential criminal or quasi-criminal charges including, but not limited to, polygamy and any other offence of a sexual nature."

The release continued: "In order to ensure there is no risk of real or perceived improper influence during the course of the charge assessment review, Mr. Gillen concluded it was appropriate to appoint an independent special prosecutor."

Oppal was to hold a news conference later today to discuss the development.

Bountiful has been operating for decades and last year, one of its high-profile leaders was arrested by the FBI in the United States on polygamy-related charges.

The people living in Bountiful are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

They believe that in order to get into heaven, men in the community must marry as many wives as possible.

Women who have left the colony have complained the daughters of such unions are not educated properly and are forced into arranged marriages and to have children with much older men.

As well, they say many sons are forced to leave the community in their teens because there aren't enough women to go around.

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