Nova Scotia

CTV Atlantic youth law charge a rare prosecution, expert says

CTV Atlantic is accused of breaching the Youth Criminal Justice Act by broadcasting the identity of a youth charged in a Cole Harbour home invasion.

'If in fact the law here was violated, I think a prosecution is certainly appropriate,' says Queen's professor

CTV Atlantic is facing a charge of breaching the Youth Criminal Justice Act after being accused of broadcasting teens involved in a home invasion that paralysed Ashley MacLean Kearse. (Google Maps)

A leading Canadian expert in youth criminal law says it's rare for a media organization to be punished for publicly identifying a young offender. 

"We have had one or two cases in the last quarter century where this law was violated and there have been prosecutions," said Nicholas Bala, a professor in the faculty of law at Queen's University.

Christa Thompson, a Nova Scotia Legal Aid lawyer, said CTV Atlantic broadcast images of one of her youth clients leaving court in August 2015 in the case of a violent home invasion.

When she complained to Halifax police, Thompson said an investigator later showed her a copy of the broadcast. 

CTV Atlantic has been charged with breaching the Youth Crimincal Justice Act, which bans the publication or broadcast of identifies of young people who have been charged or convicted of crimes.

'It makes society less safe'

Bala said it's important for police to enforce the act. 

"If in fact the law here was violated, I think a prosecution is certainly appropriate," he said. 

"If we didn't prosecute the media, there would be further cases and I think it's important to send the message to the media that this law is intended to be respected."

Bala said research from U.S. jurisdictions where identities of youths can be published shows they sometimes revel in the attention.

"They don't feel ashamed. They feel actually kind of proud at the moment that it's happening in a disturbing kind of way," he said.

"But later on when they get out, it is more difficult to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them into society." 

Protecting identities

Bala said he believes rehabilitating young offenders makes sense in the long run. 

"In a situation like this I think identifying them will make it more difficult for them to be rehabilitated," he said. "Ultimately, it makes society less safe, I think that's why we should care about it."

Halifax Regional Police won't reveal details about the case, but a spokesperson said a corporation has been ordered to appear in court Feb. 9 regarding a violation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

The maximum sentence for a summary conviction in the case would be six months of imprisonment, or a fine of $5,000. 

Bala said if there's a conviction, a fine is the most likely outcome because police are pursuing a corporation, rather than an individual. 

Bell Media, which owns CTV Atlantic, won't comment while the matter is before the courts. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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