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Charged engineer wants parts of mall-collapse judicial report kept secret

By: Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

 | Apr 30, 2014 - 11:57 AM |
Engineer Robert (Bob) Wood is shown at the mall-collapse inquiry in Elliot Lake, Ont., on June 6, 2013. The discredited engineer charged in the collapse of a northern Ontario mall is asking for a judicial inquiry into the disaster to keep secret some of its report, expected in October, until the criminal proceedings against him are over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

Engineer Robert (Bob) Wood is shown at the mall-collapse inquiry in Elliot Lake, Ont., on June 6, 2013. The discredited engineer charged in the collapse of a northern Ontario mall is asking for a judicial inquiry into the disaster to keep secret some of its report, expected in October, until the criminal proceedings against him are over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

TORONTO - The discredited engineer charged in the collapse of a northern Ontario mall is asking for a judicial inquiry into the disaster to keep secret some of its report, expected in October, until the criminal proceedings against him are over.

In an unusual move, Bob Wood notified the commission of his intent to bring a formal application for the redactions of any material in the final report relating to him to ensure he gets a fair trial.

In response, Commissioner Paul Belanger on Tuesday ordered Wood to provide the commission details of his arguments, including any legal justification, for the secrecy request by May 16.

Belanger said he would make the application and its supporting materials public.

In January, provincial police charged Wood with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one of causing bodily harm.

Evidence before the inquiry was that he had declared the crumbling Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake to be structurally sound just weeks before part of its roof-deck parking lot caved in in June 2012. Two women died in the collapse.

In his order, Belanger said anyone involved in the inquiry, which wrapped up hearings in October, as well as Crown lawyers or media will have an opportunity to make submissions on Wood's application if they provide written notice by May 23.

The hearing on the application will take place in Ottawa on June 20, Belanger said.

Wood's lawyer Rob MacRae said Tuesday he would not discuss the application until after he had filed the requested materials with the commission.

However, in his letter to the commission, he said the "grave" charges Wood, 65, faces are punishable by life.

"The interim value to the public of the information regarding Mr. Wood contained in Justice Belanger's final report will be dramatically less than the prejudicial result to Mr. Wood," the letter states.

Commission counsel said it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage.

The inquiry probing the causes of the collapse that killed Doloris Perizzolo, 74, and Lucie Aylwin, 37, and the emergency response to the situation heard from about 125 witnesses over 117 days.

Evidence was that the roof-top garage of the poorly designed structure leaked from the beginning and decades of water and salt penetration caused severe rusting of its steel supports.

Ultimately, a weld subject to years of corrosion snapped, sending one vehicle and concrete crashing into the mall below.

Wood, who had declared the centre structurally sound, admitted on the stand to changing his final inspection report that minimized the extent of the problems at the mall after he and his partner signed off on it.

The changes were made at the request of the mall owner Bob Nazarian, who was unhappy the mall would look bad when he was trying to get refinancing for it, Wood testified.

The commission's report, which had been due earlier this year, is now expected before Oct. 31.

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