New warrants issued in Oland homicide investigation

Saint John police have obtained a new search warrant and a production order from the courts in the year-old Richard Oland homicide investigation.

Latest court documents sealed like previous ones

Richard Oland was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011.

Saint John police have obtained a new search warrant and a production order from the courts in the year-old Richard Oland homicide investigation.

The orders were issued by provincial court Judge William McCarroll within the past month, according to media lawyer David Coles.

It’s not known where police want to search or why because the documents are sealed, said Coles, who is representing CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal in a bid to have other search warrant documents related to the case made public.

But the latest orders, which have not yet been executed, suggest the investigation is active, said Coles.

The general warrant and production order are valid for six months.

Oland, a prominent businessman, was found dead in his uptown office on July 7, 2011.

Saint John police believe the 69-year-old was murdered, heavily redacted search warrant documents released by the court last month reveal.

The blacked-out documents do not mention the cause of death, whether any weapons were involved or name any suspects.

Decision on other sealed warrants expected Friday

David Coles, who is representing CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal, says it's 'regrettable' the two latest court orders have also been sealed. (CBC)

Chief provincial court Judge R. Leslie Jackson is expected to rule on Friday whether to release any additional information from the seven blacked-out documents, two other other unreleased ones.

"That decision will, in broad terms, explain his reasoning for what is to be released," said Coles.

But any new details won’t actually be made public until Oct. 5, Coles said.

"He hasn’t released his decision yet, so it’s speculation — although obviously if he’s contemplating releasing yet again another version, that would seem to suggest that there’s additional material that will be coming out."

Search warrants are normally public documents.

"We continue to have difficulty with the process that’s being used here," said Coles, referring to the latest documents also being sealed.

"Normally when a search warrant is issued, it’s issued confidentially anyway. In other words you don’t need to seal the whole file because when it’s issued it’s confidential and it’s only when it gets [executed and] returned that it becomes public.

"So to seal it up front before we even know if anything’s been taken or what’s been taken, it seems to me to be a regrettable procedure. It means that the whole thing is confidential and it may not need to be."

Legitimate public interest

One of the search warrants in question was executed at the home of Richard Oland's son, Dennis Oland. (CBC)

CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal have been fighting since December to have the Oland search warrants unsealed.

"It’s been a long process and I hope that at the end it amounts to what ought to be disclosed," said Coles.

"The public have a legitimate interest in seeing that search warrants are exercised, that they’re issued properly, that they’re not abused, and the only way you can do that is to have some measure of transparency in our view - and the law recognizes this.

"So the trade off is nobody wants to interfere with an ongoing investigation, but by the same token, the police have to be policed, if you will, and the public has a right to understand and be satisfied that the process is proceeding properly and that’s why transparency is the rule and covertness is the exception."

Lawyers representing members of the Oland family have been fighting to keep the documents sealed.

Seven of nine search warrants, along with several related documents, were made public on Aug. 16, although much of the information in them was blacked out.

The released documents relate to searches police conducted at the home of Oland’s only son, Dennis Oland, on July 14; a car owned by an unnamed person the same day; a sailboat co-owned by Dennis’ wife, on July 21; the CIBC on King Street, where Oland "primarily" did his operational banking, and for CIBC Wood Gundy on Chipman Hill, where Dennis Oland worked as an investment advisor.

Among the 378 items police have seized to date were Oland's financial records, the lint trap of the dryer of his son’s home, a forensic swab of a red drop on his daughter-in-law’s boat, a receipt from Kent Building Supplies, dated July 7, 2011 — the same day Oland’s body was discovered in his uptown office, the documents show.