R. v. Dingwell

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Note

The CBC and Guardian newspaper applied to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island to have access to audio recordings of 911 calls, video and audio tapes of three statements made by the accused and a police video of the crime scene, all of which were being used in evidence in the second degree murder trial of the accused. After applying the Dagenais-Mentuck test Justice Mitchell ordered copies of the 911 calls and the accused's video-taped statements to police to be released to the media. Mitchell J. placed restrictions on the use of the crime scene videotape, citing privacy interests of the innocent.

Decision Summary

Justice Mitchell cites the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. The Queen, 2011 S.C.C. 3, as the basis for determining access to exhibits. In referring to the 911 calls, Mitchell J. states at para. 18:

I can see no danger to the proper administration of justice in releasing these tapes to the media. No one’s rights appear to be adversely affected by its release. Copies of those tapes shall be released to the media.

With respect to releasing the police video of the crime scene to the media, Mitchell J. discusses the privacy interests of the other residents of the home where the crime took place, as well as the privacy interests of the next door neighbours. Mitchell J., in para. 21, orders the release of the video, but restricts its use:

1. Only those portions of the video which show the crime scene; to wit, front yard, area around the cars, front steps, front entry, landing by the front stairs, front hallway, kitchen, dining room and living room may be broadcast/published.
2. For greater certainty, the video showing the second floor, the back yard and side yard are not to be broadcast.

On the issue of the release of the video statements made by the accused, Mitchell J. raises questions regarding the deleterious effect such a release might have on future cases, even though the Crown did not raise any concerns about their release:

[25] I cannot help but wonder what effect publication of this statement will have on future cases. Will not defence counsel advise their clients of their right to remain silent, how to exercise that right, and the fact that should they fail to exercise the right to remain silent, they’re likely to end up on television for all to see? Will it be more difficult for police to get statements and hence more difficult to solve crimes? Will this adversely affect the administration of justice?

Mitchell J. concludes, at para. 30, with instructions on how the media should make future requests for trial exhibits:

Should the media in the future wish copies of trial exhibits, in my view, theproper course would be to approach the Court, Crown and Defence. The Crown should be able to advise the Court whether there are other interests at stake. If none, and the Court can see no impediment to a media release, an exhibit will be released once it is tendered. There may well be occasions where the Court will put conditions on the release and in fact, this is one of those cases where the videotape was released on condition that the media show only those parts of the tape which were relevant to the crime and did not breach the privacy interests of the neighbours.

References

R. v. Dingwell, 2012 PESC 14

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