The Canadian Press has been fined $4,000 for contempt of court for breaching a publication ban imposed at a British Columbia murder trial last year. The wire service circulated a report that used the first name of an undercover RCMP officer whose identity was protected under a court-ordered ban. The CP reporter covering the case was aware of the ban but assumed the name used to identify the officer in court was a pseudonym; it turned out to be the officer's real name. The ruling will be of particular interest to online journalists, as the report appeared on only a handful of websites before CP realized its mistake, killed the story and apologized to the court. Read the Vancouver Sun report. Read the ruling.
As the Supreme Court of Canada prepares for this fall's review of the publication ban on bail hearings, Law Times columnist Alan Shanoff argues the public is entitled to more information about why offenders are released or held pending trial. The justice system, he argues in a June 8 column, has nothing to fear from improved publicity.
Read the Canadian Press and Associated Press reports.
Toronto (April 1, 2009) – The Ontario government has reversed a controversial policy that blocked access to court files in cases subject to a publication ban. Journalists objected to the policy for years, arguing it made it difficult to fully and accurately cover criminal cases. In announcing the change, Attorney General Chris Bentley said openness strengthens the justice system and "it's in the interests of everybody in the province of Ontario" to have "as much in the way of access to information as possible." Media lawyers say the move is overdue and brings Ontario in line with practices in other provinces, which recognize that journalists can review a court file even if certain information is banned from publication.
Read the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail reports, and the commentary "Rolling back secrecy on court files," published in the Toronto Star.
Review the revised Section 2.2.6 of Ontario's Policies and Procedures on Public Access to Court Files, Documents and Exhibits.
Ontario's highest court has narrowly upheld the sweeping ban on publishing any information presented at a bail hearing, except in youth court cases and for minor offences not heard by a jury. Three of five members of the Ontario Court of Appeal say the ban ensures defendants receive a fair trial, but two dissenting judges called the Criminal Code provision "a dramatic curb on freedom of expression" that prevents informed public debate about why bail has been granted or refused. Media organizations challenged the ban when it was imposed on bail hearings for 18 Brampton-area men charged in an alleged terrorist conspiracy in 2006. One media lawyer says limiting the ban to jury cases is "a positive step towards openness" but the issue may be headed to the Supreme Court of Canada for a final ruling.
Read the Associated Press and The Globe and Mail reports on the ruling.
Read the ruling.
Read the Globe's editorial calling on Parliament to amend the ban.
An appeal of an Alberta ruling upholding the bail hearing ban is headed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper campaigned on a promise to lift the publication ban on the identities of young people convicted of serious violent offences. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act as it now stands, judges consider the impact on society and on the youth before deciding whether the media can name such offenders. In a September 2008 editiorial the Ottawa Citizen calls on the Conservative government to show the policy change is justified.
Alberta's Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling that would have ended the practice of banning publication of evidence heard at bail hearings at the request of a defendant. A lower court said the mandatory ban, which applies even when there will be no jury trial, violated the Charter's guarantee of press freedom and judges should decide whether a ban is needed to ensure a fair trial. While the appeal court agreed s. 517 of the Criminal Code infringes on press freedom, it concluded the restriction is justified to prevent the publication of information that could a prejudice a defendant's case. The CBC and the Edmonton Sun have applied for leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Read the Court of Appeal's September 3, 2008 ruling.
The Supreme Court of Canada has described open courts as a "core value" as central to the justice system as the presumption of innocence. Yet at the trial court level in Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General has imposed access restrictions that arguably have made the province's court system the least open in the country. Shannon Kari reports in the June 30, 2008 edition of the Law Times.
No one disputes that open courts are a hallmark of a democratic society. But media lawyer Alan Shanoff, writing the June 14, 2008 edition of the Law Times, says it's time to stop paying lip service to this principle and to rethink the many roadblocks the legal system throws in the way of openness.
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Thank you, Thomas, I'll check it out.16 hours 9 min ago
- this whole thing says a LOT more about the state of the press in Canada (I won...19 hours 11 min ago
The NNAs have been irrelevant for some time now. Basically, the major newspaper chains buy...1 day 3 sec ago