Edmonton

Decision upheld in favour of CBC in publication ban case

The Court of Appeal of Alberta has upheld a lower court decision that found CBC Edmonton not guilty of criminal contempt regarding a publication ban in a murder case.

Court of appeal rules that maintaining access to articles does not amount to publishing them

The Court of Appeal of Alberta upheld a ruling that found the CBC not guilty of criminal contempt in a case involving a publication ban. (CBC)

The Court of Appeal of Alberta has upheld a lower court decision that found CBC Edmonton not guilty of criminal contempt regarding a publication ban in a murder case. 

While covering the murder of a 14-year-old girl in Edson in March 2016, the CBC published two online articles that included the victim's name and photograph, before a publication ban was ordered.

Alberta's attorney general asked the CBC to remove the identifying information from the two stories after the ban was issued, but the CBC refused. 

The CBC abided by the ban after it went into effect, but did not remove or alter earlier reports archived and searchable on its website.

The Crown charged the public broadcaster with criminal contempt of court. 

Justice Terry Clackson heard the case in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench in May 2017, and acquitted the CBC.  

He determined that maintaining access to the articles online was not the same as publishing them anew. 

The Crown appealed that decision. 

Appeal dismissed

In a written decision released Friday, the three court of appeal justices agreed that maintaining access to the original articles did not amount to publishing the material anew.

They determined that the trial judge did not err in his interpretation of the meanings of the term published, and dismissed the appeal. 

It isn't up to the court of appeal to determine what should be included in the legal definition of publish, Justice Patricia Rowbotham wrote in the decision.

"I fully recognize the pervasive nature of the Internet, and the concern that what is on the Internet stays forever," Rowbotham wrote. "But in my view it is Parliament that must initiate any desired reform."

Chuck Thompson, head of CBC public affairs, said in a statement the broadcaster was pleased with the outcome.

Alberta Justice is reviewing the decision, spokesperson Katherine Thompson said in an email to the CBC. 

"The Crown will carefully review the decision from the court of appeal and consider whether to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada," Thompson wrote. 

The Crown has 60 days to apply for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.