TORONTO — The lawyer for a Canadian man accused of selling lethal substances on the internet to people at risk of self harm said he will be pleading not guilty to upgraded murder charges.
Kenneth Law was charged in December with 14 counts of second-degree murder, and his lawyer, Matthew Gourlay, confirmed Friday those have now all been upgraded to first-degree murder.
An international investigation is underway following the arrest in Canada last year of the 58-year-old Law, who was initially charged with two counts of counseling and aiding suicide last year. More charges were announced in December.
Canadian police say Law, from the Toronto area, used a series of websites to market and sell sodium nitrite, a substance commonly used to cure meats that can be deadly if ingested. He is accused of shipping them to people in more than 40 countries.
British police said they are investigating the deaths of 88 people in the U.K. linked to the websites. Authorities in the United States, Italy, Australia and New Zealand also have launched investigations.
Law’s case was set to return before a Newmarket, Ontario, court on Tuesday, but Gourlay said that will not take place as scheduled since the case will instead go directly to trial in Superior Court. Gourlay said his next court appearance is now expected to be next Thursday in Superior Court.
The Ministry of the Attorney General didn't immediately respond to a message asking why the charges were upgraded to first degree murder. Peel Regional Police referred comment to the ministry.
Police have said all charges against Law relate to the same 14 alleged victims, who were between the ages of 16 and 36 and died in communities across Ontario. The believe more than 1,200 packages were sent out globally, and about 160 were sent in Canada.
It is against the law in Canada for someone to recommend suicide, although assisted suicide has been legal since 2016 for people aged at least 18. Any adult with a serious illness, disease or disability may seek help in dying, but they must ask for that assistance from a physician.