Monday, November 16, 2009

Media take publication ban in bail hearings to top court

Mandatory publication bans that impose a “cone of silence” on bail hearings must be lifted, argued the country’s largest media companies before the Supreme Court of Canada Monday.

Sun Media lawyers have been fighting mandatory bail hearing publication bans ever since Michael White, an Edmonton man later convicted of killing his wife, was granted bail in 2005 despite widespread outrage in the community. The Edmonton Sun was not allowed to report on the judge’s reasons for releasing the accused because White requested – and was automatically granted – a publication ban. The highest court also heard arguments involving bail hearings for the so-called Toronto 18.

“The problem with section 517 is it’s a blanket all-or-nothing ban that the court must grant simply if the accused asks for it,” said Sun Media lawyer Peter Banks.

The media argued the pre-charter criminal code provision breaches the press’ constitutional right to free expression.

The public has a right to know why individuals the police suggest are terrorists are being released back into the community, said lawyer Paul Schabas.

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