Court upholds media right to prior notice in publication ban case

Prosecutors argued they didn't need to give media notice they were seeking a publication ban related to a court application involving tax records. A judge disagrees.

Prosecutors had argued no notice was needed for publication ban related to CRA tax-records case

(Robert Short/CBC)

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has upheld the rules on when and how secrecy can be imposed in court proceedings.

Federal Crown prosecutors had sought a publication ban on a court application intended to force the Canada Revenue Agency to turn over tax records as part of a criminal investigation. But the prosecutors gave no notice of their request.

Long-established practice in Nova Scotia courts requires that anyone requesting a discretionary publication ban give prior notice so the public and media have a chance to intervene.

The Crown tried to argue that it was not required to give prior notice. But Justice Michael Wood said that position had to be argued in open court. David Coles, a lawyer hired by CBC, faced off against federal prosecutors last week.

And in a decision released Friday, Wood ruled the requirement for prior notice stands.

"The role of the media permeates all of the jurisprudence concerning open courts, publication bans and sealing orders," Wood wrote.

"As in this case, they are the eyes and the ears of the public and provide the exposure to light on which the administration of justice thrives."

This ruling does not mean the tax files are about to be made public. A new hearing will now be scheduled at which the media will be able to argue whether a publication ban should be granted in this case.

About the Author

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 34 years, the last 25 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety.