5. Breaking Bans

There are instances in which Canadian individuals and organizations have been charged with violating publication bans. While it does not appear that a Canadian journalist has been jailed for breaking a publication ban, the potential for severe punishment is nevertheless real. [1] In some cases, even minor breaches of the ban have brought charges. However, there have been situations where publication ban offenders have been discharged based on their good intentions for breaking the law.

One such case occurred in 1999 when Hamilton Spectator editor-in-chief Kirk LaPointe intentionally broke a publication ban under the Young Offenders Act by printing an unapprehended suspect’s name, photograph and past record. LaPointe affirmed he did so with the public interest in mind, and the judge supported his position. [2]

Arguably one of the most famous publication ban violations in Canada came in 2005, when author Stephen Williams pleaded guilty to violating a court order and received a suspended jail sentence of three years probation plus 75 hours of community service. Williams had posted the names and other identifying information of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo’s murder victims on his website — one victim was referenced 50 times. What’s more, Williams also reportedly sold video footage of one of the murders to HBO; he had gained access to the footage while writing his two books on Bernardo. [3]

The Hamilton Spectator was taken to court again in 2010 and fined $4,500 for publishing the photo of a sexual assault victim. The photo was taken from a distance and did not show the victim’s face, but it was determined that she and her husband (whom she was photographed with) could still be identified. [4]

Next: Competing Media 

1. Dean Jobb, Media Law for Canadian Journalists (Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications Limited, 2011), 299.
2. Jobb, 302.
3. Nick Pron and Robert Benzie, “Bernardo author called ‘a criminal’ Stephen Williams guilty of breaking publication ban.” The Free Radical. January 15, 2005. 
4. Jobb, 281.