Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Guest speakers: Nancy Rubin (Lawyer), Patricia Brooks (Chronicle Herald), Rick
Brand (CBC Reporter)
Access to the Courts:
What does access mean to journalists?
Nancy: Fundamental principle of democracy that courts are open and court files are open.
That access right isn’t absolute, subject to exemptions under statute, regulations, etc.
Restrictions on access when there is a common law publication ban
Where do you go to get documents?
Basic charters Provincial court
Can’t take a court file out of court to photocopy.
424-6018 – John Piccolo – Court spokesperson, call for documents. Former CBC
Why is it important for a journalist to obtain information from the courts before writing a
Accurate information from court documents, detail on background.
You can get a lede for the next element of a story, get addresses, etc.
Backing up facts – this person was charged with this on this day – pre-sentence reports,
victim impact statements, etc.
Brooks: Make sure they’re proven allegations. Qualified privilege – reciprocal duties to
make a statement & receive information; Ex. Social worker – report abuse. Malice –
making a statement knowing it’s false
Pre-sentence reports (PSR), victim impact statements (VIS)
You can’t get until after they pleaded, have to go to court.
Don’t open sealed documents in a file
Under what circumstances do you photocopy documents?
Rick: Use on camera, permission from the Supreme Court – know if you need for
information to write the story rather than just a visual.
Permission to shoot in court? John Piccolo, sheriff in Provincial court
Publication ban does not mean you cannot access a file. 1) Close doors 2) Sealing order
3) Restrictive publication ban – some parts of the file are sealed Once search warrants have been issued and the information found, the information is
public (some things may be sealed, i.e. don’t disclose police investigative technique, etc.)
How do you find out if someone has a criminal record?
First name, middle name, last name, date of birth – minimum; Present to a court clerk
Source the story – in reports it says “according to the documents…”
Nancy’s Facebook Story –