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VANCOUVER — The failure of Crown prosecutors to press a drug-addicted woman nearly murdered by Robert Pickton to testify against the serial killer has inspired new policy to support vulnerable witnesses.

B.C.’s criminal justice branch has implemented a series of new regulations that will help victims participate in criminal prosecutions, fulfilling a key recommendation made by the public inquiry looking into Vancouver’s missing women.

A 1997 trial against Pickton that may have stopped his killing rampage years earlier was called off when the Crown decided the woman he attacked was unreliable as a witness because she was a heroin addict.

The new policy recognizes that for cases involving allegations of serious personal injury, vulnerable victims require ongoing support and their participation in the justice system needs to be encouraged.

Missing women inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal says the new policy is right on, noting a major downfall in the Pickton case was that women distrusted police and that meant authorities sometimes missed crucial information.

Pickton was originally charged with killing 26 women, most of them from Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside, but the remaining charges were stayed when he was convicted of killing six women.

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