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Bureaucrat accused of leaking information linked to Mark Norman case set for October preliminary inquiry

Bureaucrat accused of leaking information linked to Mark Norman case set for October preliminary inquiry
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OTTAWA — A federal public servant accused of leaking cabinet information about the same shipbuilding project as Vice Admiral Mark Norman has a three-day preliminary inquiry set for October — meaning it may take place after Norman’s trial concludes.

Matthew Matchett, who worked for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency at the time, is accused of unlawfully providing government information about a $700-million naval supply ship contract to people working for Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding.

Matchett was charged with breach of trust last month, and some details of the case against him filed in the Norman case. Those documents allege, based on RCMP disclosure, that Matchett provided cabinet information (including a PowerPoint presentation deck and a memorandum to cabinet) to a lobbyist working for Davie.

Norman was charged last year with breach of trust for allegedly leaking information to Davie about the same supply ship contract, and his lawyers have demanded to know why his case appears to have been treated differently than Matchett’s. But the court proceedings have become bogged down in disclosure issues as his lawyers fight for access to thousands of government documents they say they need for his defence. The battle over those documents will likely affect what documents Matchett can access for his own defence.

Norman’s trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 19 and run for seven or eight weeks.

Disclosure seems to have been ready in August of 2018, but we received it in February, approaching the two-year anniversary of when our client was informed he was a suspect in this matter

Both sides in the Matchett case are already preparing arguments over possible trial delays, the court heard in a brief appearance on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Jeannine Plamondon — who is also working on the Norman case — told the judge that the Crown had argued for a much shorter preliminary inquiry, one day at the most. Preliminary inquires are hearings to establish if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial.

But Plamandon said the defence insisted on up to three days for the inquiry, in part because it wanted to call more witnesses and argue that the elements of the offence have not been met. Matchett has already entered a plea of not guilty.

“So simply for Jordan purposes, the Crown is putting this on the record, that the Crown has made efforts to have a speedy preliminary inquiry so we can move quickly to trial,” Plamandon said. The reference is to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Jordan that established general limits on how long a court proceeding can take before it’s tossed for delays.

Matchett’s lawyer Matthew Day told the court that the case has already been drawn out due to how long it took the Crown to lay a charge.

“Disclosure seems to have been ready in August of 2018, but we received it in February, approaching the two-year anniversary of when our client was informed he was a suspect in this matter,” he said.

He said his plan for the preliminary inquiry will depend on how much disclosure the defence receives in the meantime. “We received, as I said last time, voluminous disclosure,” he said. “We don’t have it all yet.”

Speaking to reporters afterward, Day declined to comment on how much disclosure he has already received, and whether he has the same concerns raised by Norman’s lawyers about the sluggish pace of disclosure in that case.

Matchett’s case is due back in court on Aug. 9 for a check-in. The preliminary inquiry is scheduled to run from Oct. 23 to 25.

The Norman case will be back in court next week for two days as the sides prepare for a hearing on a pre-trial motion from the defence alleging abuse of process. The hearing was scheduled to happen next week, but has been delayed over disclosure issues.

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