'Special prosecutor' in Colin Basran sex assault case has defended a number of high-profile clients

Basran's special prosecutor

The lawyer who's been tasked with prosecuting Kelowna's former mayor Colin Basran has defended a number of high-profile clients, including Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen in his recent sexual assault trial.

On Wednesday, a single sexual assault charge was laid against Basran, stemming from an alleged incident on May 11, 2022.

The BC Prosecution Service announced Wednesday that Vancouver lawyer Brock Martland had previously been appointed as a “special prosecutor” in the case. A lawyer who is not employed by the Ministry of Attorney General can be appointed as a special prosecutor in cases where there could be a real or perceived conflict of interest if a local prosecutor was assigned to the case.

“The appointment of a special prosecutor is intended to avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of justice considering the nature of the allegations and the identity of the accused as an elected municipal official,” the BC Prosecution Service said in its statement.

While police have not released any information about when the allegation against Basran was first made, Martland was appointed to the case back on Oct. 13, 2022, just two days before the municipal election that saw Basran lose the mayoral race to Tom Dyas. Basran had waited to announce his candidacy for re-election until the last possible day, on Sept. 8.

The BCPS says Martland was given a mandate to “provide legal advice to the RCMP investigators as may be necessary, conduct any related charge assessment, and assume conduct of the prosecution if charges were approved.”

The BCPS said the announcement of Martland to the case had been “postponed” until the completion of the investigation and the approval of charges.

Sexual assault, Section 271 of the Canadian Criminal Code, is a broad criminal charge that encapsulates a wide range of criminal behaviour.

According to an online explainer by the Paul Lewandowski Professional Corporation out of Ottawa, the offence “captures an extremely wide range of behaviour” and “examples include anything from slapping someone on the buttocks at a bar, all the way to an outright rape.”

The Crown is proceeding against Basran by indictment. Indictable offences are generally more serious than summary offences.

A conviction of sexual assault of an adult carries no minimum sentence, but an indictable conviction has a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

The details of the allegation against Basran are not known at this time, and they likely won't be made public until a trial or a sentencing hearing.

Martland was called to the bar in 2001 and has largely worked as a criminal defence lawyer with the Martland & Saulnier law firm in Vancouver.

Most recently, he successfully defended Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen against a sexual assault allegation. He was also counsel for Ripudaman Singh Malik, one of the accused in the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 331 people. Malik was acquitted in 2005, but was fatally shot earlier this year.

Martland was also the co-lead counsel for the recent Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C.

According to Martland's biography on his law firm's website, he “occasionally conducts trials and appeals for the Crown.”

Basran is scheduled to make his first appearance at the Kelowna law courts on Jan. 24.

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