Fredericton blogger libel charges won't proceed

Criminal libel charges against Fredericton blogger Charles LeBlanc will not proceed.

Criminal libel charges against Fredericton blogger Charles LeBlanc will not proceed.

"Following an extensive review of case law, it is clear that other jurisdictions have found this section to be unconstitutional," the provincial government said in a statement on Friday.

"Though we are not bound by those decisions, the legal principles found within are quite sound and it is highly unlikely that any court in New Brunswick would come to a contrary decision," the statement from the office of the attorney general said.

"We have advised the Fredericton Police Force we are of the opinion that section 301 is unconstitutional and that the matter against Mr. LeBlanc cannot be approved."

LeBlanc told CBC News he would not comment on the matter until he gets something in writing.

No one from the Fredericton Police Force was available for comment.

Spokesman Rick Mooney said Chief Barry MacKnight is currently out of town, but will review the decision on Monday and comment on Tuesday.

Mayor Brad Woodside, who has previously expressed concern about the police force's handling of LeBlanc's case, told CBC News he has asked for a third-party review.

"I have spoken to the chief and have asked for a third-party review to ensure that policies and procedure in this case were proper," Woodside stated on Twitter.

Woodside is running for re-election on May 14.

LeBlanc was facing charges under section 301 of the Criminal Code, which relates to criminal libel.

He was accused of damaging the reputation of a city police officer in blog posts last summer.

LeBlanc was scheduled to appear in court on April 20, but the court proceedings were delayed.

Steve Foulds, LeBlanc's lawyer, told CBC News at the time the case was stalled because the Crown was reviewing the charges.

Last month, six University of New Brunswick professors sent a letter to Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais saying they thought the case would not result in a conviction and was not in the public interest.

At least four jurisdictons have found section 301 to be unconstitutional — Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In February, a national civil liberties group wrote to the Fredericton police chief, questioning the treatment of LeBlanc.

LeBlanc was arrested and released in January, while officers searched his apartment and seized his computer equipment.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is designed to protect the freedom on Canadians, also pointed out that section 301 had been found unconstitutional in other jurisdictions.

There is no word on when LeBlanc will get his computer back.