No charges to be filed in relation to April 2012 fatal explosion and fire at Prince George, British Columbia, sawmill operated by Lakeland Mills; Criminal Justice Branch finds there would be 'no substantial likelihood of conviction'

VICTORIA, British Columbia , April 14, 2014 (press release) – The Criminal Justice Branch, Ministry of Justice, announced today that no charges will be approved in relation to the fire and explosion on April 23, 2012 at a sawmill operated by Lakeland Mills Ltd. in Prince George. Tragically, two workers died and 22 others were injured as a result of this incident.
On February 19, 2014, WorkSafeBC (WSBC) formally submitted a Report to Crown Counsel to the Criminal Justice Branch for an assessment of whether charges under provincial legislation should be laid against Lakeland Mills Ltd. (Lakeland).

Based on the evidence that would likely be available for presentation by Crown Counsel in court, the Branch has concluded that there is no substantial likelihood of conviction for any of the regulatory offences recommended by WSBC. The decision, which is explained in greater detail in the attached Clear Statement, follows an extensive and thorough review of the available evidence by senior Crown Counsel.

While the Branch is satisfied that the Crown could prove the prohibited acts (or actus reus) underlying the offences recommended by WSBC, the Branch has also determined that Lakeland would likely succeed on a defence of due diligence. As a result, there is no substantial likelihood of conviction.

In keeping with the recommendation of Commissioner Stephen Owen, QC following the Discretion to Prosecute Inquiry (1990), a Clear Statement of the reasons for not prosecuting is sometimes made public by the Criminal Justice Branch in high profile cases where the investigation has become publicly known, so as to maintain confidence in the integrity of the system. The Branch recognizes that the fire and explosion at the Lakeland mill has attracted significant public attention.

Crown Counsel are meeting today in Prince George with Lakeland workers and family members to notify them of the Branch decision. Additional private meetings will be held between Crown Counsel, and those affected, today and later in the week to assist them in understanding the reasons underlying the determination that no charges will be approved.

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