Oland search warrants details to be released

Details about search warrants related to the Richard Oland homicide investigation could be made public as early as Wednesday morning.

Crown abandons bid to keep all documents sealed

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

Details about search warrants related to the Richard Oland homicide investigation could be made public as early as Wednesday morning.

Crown prosecutors in Saint John have abandoned their application to keep the documents sealed.

On Tuesday morning, the Crown presented evidence during a closed hearing in provincial court as to why a sealing order on the documents should be extended, which included testimony from one of the lead investigators in the case.

But by Tuesday afternoon, the Crown decided to withdraw its application to keep details about the information police filed with the court to obtain the warrants, the warrants themselves, and documents filed with the court about what items were seized during the searches sealed.

Instead, the Crown argued during a closed hearing before provincial court Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson as to what specific information should continue to be withheld.

David Coles, who is representing CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal, says search warrants should only be sealed in "exceptional" circumstances. (CBC)

CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal have been fighting to have the documents made public since December.

Warrants are normally public and should only be sealed in "extraordinary" cases, says lawyer David Coles, who is representing the media outlets.

"I think the Crown, rightly, has recognized that the assertion that all of the material, a year later, that's in these files, that it all has to be kept confidential is gone and now is taking a proper approach, if one does seek to seal, which is to specifically justify and give reasons for why it is necessary at this stage still to maintain confidentiality over anything," Coles told reporters outside the courtroom.

"So is it progress? I suppose it's progress. I think it's the system working as it ought to," he said.

"Police do not get to simply invade your property, take your goods, and that’s kept confidential from everybody, for what — forever? Well, our courts say no. There’s a disclosure requirement so the system can be kept under public scrutiny."  

The judge was expected to decide what, if any information to keep sealed and the rest was to be released to lawyers representing members of the Oland family. In addition, for any information that was blacked out, the judge was to include an explanation as to why it was redacted. 

Lawyers representing members of the Oland family were then expected to be able to argue to have additional information sealed.

Whatever information is left is expected to be made public on Wednesday, when the hearing resumes. Then Coles will be able to argue on behalf of the media outlets whether additional information should be released.

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

Police have confirmed early on that the 69-year-old was the victim of a homicide and likely knew his killer, but more than a year later, have released few details about the case.

The Crown has previously argued the documents contain "hallmark" forensic evidence that only the person or persons responsible for Oland’s death would know and releasing them could jeopardize the investigation.

Patrick Wilbur, one of the prosecutors had told the court it's "too simplistic to suggest it's a kernel" of evidence. "It encompasses all of the evidence" and one search warrant "builds upon the other," Wilbur said.

Police searched the home of Oland's son, Dennis Oland, on Gondola Point Road in Rothesay on July 14, a nearby wooded area by the Bill McGuire Community Centre the following day, as well as a sailboat owned by his wife, Lisa Oland, and another woman at the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club in Saint John on July 21.

Details about other search warrants and a production order executed in the case are now under a publication ban.