Twitter has been abuzz over the past hour or so about this article from the Hamilton Spectator about the presiding Justice of the Peace banning notetaking during a bail hearing for some of the alleged conspirator group. The article was mentioned today on slaw.
While the author is the only source who has reported this ban, I see no reason to disbelieve her claim. It is worth noting that the Justice only banned the general public from note-taking (it was made clear that the ban did not apply to media, and we can assume lawyers and staff were exempted as well).
Last week I blogged about publication bans in bail hearings. The Justice’s order on note-taking, however, isn’t a publication ban (one was is in effect though) – the law on publication bans is about publishing information, taking notes isn’t publication.
I’ve been trying to find a legal reason for such a ban and have been unable to come up with anything that I see as being a good enough reason. One possibility is that the court received intelligence that created concern about the means in which certain information from the hearing could be used by members of the public. If that were the case, though, I would think the Crown would make an application for a more-sweeping ban – and it’s not like banning notetaking could stop something along those lines from occurring. Another possibility is more practical, the notetaking was turning into people passing notes and the court was becoming disrupted. Finally, perhaps the court was concerned about pictures of the accused being drawn – it’s not as though the media doesn’t do this.
It’s entirely possible there is a very good reason for this ban and the Justice discussed the matter privately with the Crown and defence. I’d like to give the court the benefit of the doubt and hope the answer will come out at some point.
The other question I had is whether this is really a battle worth fighting? The reality is the court remained accessible to the public and the rights of the accused were being protected by their counsel. The media was also free to take notes and may publish stories in compliance with the publication ban.