Publication ban in case connected to MP sparks confusion
LONDON, ONT. -- A publication ban put in place at the St. Thomas courthouse on Friday continues to raise questions.
The ban was approved at a bail hearing for a suspect in a drug bust case.
It came just hours after the St. Thomas Police Service published a press release regarding a search of a Talbot Street apartment that saw two people arrested after firearms and $50,000 in drugs and cash were seized.
A 31-year-old man and 22-year-old woman are facing dozens of drug- and firearm-related charges in the case and the man is also facing a number of breach of probation and breach of recognizance charges.
Shortly after the arrests were made public, Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio posted a statement to Facebook indicating that one of those arrested was a family member.
CTV News has confirmed the family member is her 22-year-old daughter.
Ari Goldkind, a criminal defence lawyer, tells CTV News a Section 517 ban is very common, but also very specific, and applies to information about the case or the accused.
“What the 517 order is really all about, is not trying the case in the media, until the day in court. Theoretically, not to pervert or poison a jury, not to have information come out, into the media that’s really not germane to what a trial will be.”
He adds that only a prosecutor or defence lawyer can make the request for a publication ban, not a member or the public or an elected official, and this is not evidence of any special treatment.
“And 99.9 per cent of defence lawyers on an everyday, ordinary basis makes this request. Once the defence lawyer for the accused makes it, it’s automatic… but don’t think that if you don’t want your friends name in there, you can call down to the courthouse and say I want a publication ban, you will not get far.”
Vecchio has also stated in a post to social media that she did not request the ban.
It remains unclear why police have removed details related to the case, including their press release, as only court proceedings are covered by the ban.
According to Goldkind, “Something that was disseminated before the publication ban in court was ordered, does not have to be taken down. There may have been a request to do so, and the media may comply with that because they are fearful of repercussions or it comes from the police, but information such as the accused’s name, what they are charged with, that is not something that in my view would have to be pulled down absent a fight.”
Calls to St. Thomas police on Monday have not been returned.
Privacy of politicians also at issue
Vecchio has asked that her privacy, and that of her family, be respected at this time.
But as a public figure, Jackie Newman, a King’s College political science professor, says there’s a question to be asked.
“This question of, how much of a politician’s life is an open book. How much privacy can a politician expect?”
The political landscape has vastly changed in recent years, Newman adds.
“In today, its 24-hour news cycle, and internet, and Twitter, and Instagram, and what have you. It doesn’t seem to be that a lot of space in a politician’s life that isn’t particularly public.”