Uni-Jet Industries and Baziuk v. AG Canada et al


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April 10, 2001

The Manitoba Court of Appeal has increased the damages won by the plaintiffs in the Uni-Jet case against the RCMP to $65,000 for the tip given to the media about the execution of a search warrant. The theory of liability was changed from negligence to abuse of public office. Punitive damages followed. This decision will certainly dissuade police forces from inviting the media to witness their search activities.

See: Uni-Jet Industries Pipe Ltd. and Baziuk v. AG Canada, Renkass and Jennings

In May, 2000, Uni-Jet obtained a judgment against the RCMP for damages due to the release of information by their press officer to the media about the execution of a search warrant on their premises. Media were able to make it to the scene of the search before the search had concluded. The media reported on the search and the allegations of criminal conduct that gave rise to the search. No charges were ever laid. The principal recovered $20,000. The company was unable to establish financial loss, and recovered $1.00. Both plaintiffs recovered costs. The basis of liability appears to have been that the RCMP press officer was negligent in breaching certain provisions of the RCMP Operational Manual which provided that the RCMP should not reveal "investigational information and techniques", should not reveal the names of suspects until charges have been laid and that any information released to the media should not result in injury, injustice or embarrassment to the innocent or accused. The judge held that, by advising the media that the searches were in progress or completed, he caused the publication of the allegations. He found that, had the publications not occurred, the number of people who knew about the searches and the allegations would have been very few. There was no reference to the fact that the search warrant material was on the public record.

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