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Judge warns journalists not to report on hearing

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Judge warns journalists not to report on hearing

  • Media reporting details of a preliminary hearing in Canada, including U.S.-based Internet publications, could be subject to criminal charges.

Jan. 17, 2003 — Provincial Court Judge David Stone warned journalists covering the preliminary hearing of an accused serial murderer Robert Pickton that they could be subject to contempt of court and criminal charges if they publish details of the evidence in the case.

Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, is charged with killing 15 women who are among 63 missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Under Canadian law, a publication ban is required for preliminary hearings in criminal cases. The ban prohibits reporting of evidence in Canada.

“This ban extends to any publication in any newspaper, on the Internet or broadcast by any means,” Stone wrote in his order released Monday.

The unusual extension of the ban to Internet publication, even by U.S.-based media, worries journalists covering the proceedings. The judge has so far denied requests by media to challenge the ban.

David Sutherland, the attorney for several of the media organizations, said he was unable to comment on the case.

Pickton’s attorney, Peter Ritchie, alleged violations of the publication ban by The Associated Press, Seattle-area newspapers and television stations, and some Canadian media.

Dave Thomlin, assistant to the president of AP, said the new service did not transmit the stories in Canada and carried a warning that they contained information prohibited by a publication ban, according to a Jan. 15 AP report

In December Stone denied a request by Pickton’s attorney to close the hearing to the press and public.

(Regina v. Pickton; Media Counsel: David F. Sutherland, Vancouver, B.C.) JL


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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