Supreme Court supports media bans on bail hearings

The Supreme Court, which is doing a lot of media judgements lately, has ruled that a defendant who asks for a media ban on bail hearing must be supported. It’s a bit of an odd one; sometimes police will hold news conferences trumpeting their latest breakthrough, giving out details on the case, then the defendant can order media to clam up on details of the case later. Anyway, the Supremes came down onthe rights of the defendant over the rights of the media.

The bans “avert the disclosure of untested prejudicial information; in other words, to guarantee as much as possible trial fairness and fair access to bail,” she wrote. “Although not a perfect outcome, the mandatory ban represents a reasonable compromise.”

CBC, June 10 2010

Court upholds partial publication bans

Publication bans tend to be total (as in the Picton hog farm case) or not granted. Here is a case in which a judge upheld a partial publication ban, balancing the media’s right to know with the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Dense legalese to read through (and I’m not a lawyer, so if there is one out there, please feel free to comment.)

This was a case in which a temporary and limited restriction of the public’s right to know was necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk to the fairness of JR’s trial.

Law Times, November 23 2009

Publication ban upheld; likely to go to Supreme Court

A publication ban on information at a preliminary hearing in a Toronto case was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which nevertheless made one important distinction in future publication bans — the ban makes sense in a preliminar inquiry that may go to a jury trial, so as not to bias a potential jury, but automatic publication bans are not justified if a case is going to be tried by a judge alone. Balancing the right of a free press/media versus the right of a citizen to a fair trial has always been a thorny issue; at least this ruling provides a bit of clarity (it is up to the accused to choose whether they want a jury trial or trial by judge alone.)

Associated Press, Jan. 26 2009

Alberta court upholds publication bans prior to trial

Alberta’s Court of Appeal has overturned a lower court rulings that pre-trial publication bans violate the Charter’s freedom of media section. CBC, CTV, the Edmonton Sun, Globe and Mail and the Edmonton Journal now have to consider whether they have a case to take to the next level.

“The benefits of the restrictions on publication outweigh the negative effects of those restrictions,” wrote the judges.

CP/Canoe, September 4 2008


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