A Penticton Western News application to remove a publication ban on the name of a man accused of sex crimes against a minor has been rebuffed by the B.C. Supreme Court.
The Western News was one of two outlets that pushed back against the court-ordered ban on the publication of the full name of the accused, who is charged with sexual interference of a minor, invitation to sexual touching with a minor, two counts of sexual exploitation and one count of sexual assault.
Media argued barring the publication of the full name would diminish both the freedom of expression and the open court principle, as well as the public’s right to know who in their community has been accused of these crimes.
The Western noted in particular that accusations of this nature, whether grounded in reality or not, are distressing for a community, and identifying the accused can help alleviate some of that stress.
The primary case law regarding publication bans imposed on anyone other than the victim comes mostly from two cases — Dagenais v. the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1994) and R. v Mentuck (2001).
Combined, the two cases have developed what is referred to as the Dagenais/Mentuck test, which is comprised of two parts.
A publication ban should only be ordered when “such an order is necessary in order to prevent a serious risk to the proper administration of justice, because reasonably alternative measures will not prevent the risk; and the salutary effects of the publication ban outweigh the deleterious effects on the rights and interests of the parties and the public, including the effects on the right to free expression, the right of the accused to a fair and public trial, and the efficacy of the administration of justice.”
The Western argued there would be no obstruction to justice in this case, because there is no jury to sway in the matter, but on the other hand it is important for the community to be aware of the man’s name.
However, victims under the age of majority are automatically covered by a publication ban that would extend to any information that could lead to the identity of the victim.
Both Crown and defence lawyers were opposed to lifting the publication ban on the accused’s name, as they felt his identity could lead to the identity of the alleged victim, despite their lack of a familial connection.
That was largely due to the small size of the community in which the two lived.
The media brought forth arguments counter to the lawyers, but Justice Alison Beames ultimately decided to err on the side of caution.
The trial is running this week, and Crown lawyer John Swanson said he expects his case to run for a few days — it was unclear, however, how long defence lawyer Don Skogstad’s case would last.