St. Thomas police apologize for confusion over publication ban, reissue drug bust details
MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- The St. Thomas Police Service is apologizing for an “unnecessary retraction,” saying it was the result of misinformation and “an abundance of caution.”
On Friday, a media release regarding a drug bust in the city the day before was pulled from the force’s website and social media channels just hours after it was posted, and local news outlets were asked to remove any associated stories.
The release related to a drug bust on Thursday at a Talbot Street apartment where police seized loaded firearms and $50,000 in drugs and cash, and charged a 31-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman.
Shortly after the release was made public, Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio had posted a statement to Facebook indicating she was related to one of those arrested. It has since been confirmed to be her 22-year-old daughter.
The retraction followed a bail hearing late Friday afternoon, during which a publication ban was put in place on the proceedings.
Now, a statement from Corporate Communication Coordinator Tanya Calvert says her office received information late Friday that two publication bans had been issued, instead of just one.
“A Section 486.5 ban on information revealing the name of victims, witnesses and justice system participants, where the order is deemed necessary for the proper administration of justice AND a Section 517 temporary publication ban to preserve the rights of the defendant to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.”
That is why the media release was retracted, the statement says, which caused significant confusion among media partners.
In fact, as CTV News reported Friday, only a routine Section 517 ban was issued at the bail hearing, which does not apply to information released before the ban is put in place and can only be requested by the prosecutor or defence.
Calvert goes on to say, however, “the accusations of collusion or privilege are completely false. It has taken time to complete an internal investigation and confirm that there was only one Section 517 publication ban issued and the retraction unnecessary. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
The full media release has been reissued on the St. Thomas police website, and Calvert adds that the force will “work diligently on improving policies regarding STPS internal sharing of information.”
St. Thomas police chief reacted to publication ban on weekend
On Saturday, St. Thomas police Chief Chris Herridge took to Facebook to respond to public concerns about the retraction.
Herridge said in a comment on an unrelated post that he was shocked by the court-ordered ban.
“I am not happy and neither is the Street Crime Unit. This is a perfect example of the public ‘needing’ to be aware of a serious public safety issue and that’s why the information was released.”
The publication ban, Herridge added, was “just another example of how we are being stymied in trying to keep this community safe… in my respectful opinion it is an injustice to our officers and the community!”