The prosecution is fighting to maintain the publication ban in the trial of the man accused of killing Const. Jeffrey Northrup
Prosecutors in the trial of the man accused of intentionally knocking down and killing the Toronto police officer. Jeffrey Northrup in the City Hall parking lot is fighting to maintain a publication ban preventing the public from finding out why Umar Zameer was released on bail.
Lawyers for both sides appeared in court virtually Thursday, with Zameer’s side arguing for a relaxation of the publication ban so that some of the reasons for his release can be made public. Zameer, who has been charged with first degree murder, was also present.
In a brief filed with the Toronto Superior Court of Justice, crown attorneys argue that relaxing the ban “would compromise the integrity of his case and seriously jeopardize the proper administration of justice.”
The ban, requested by Zameer’s lawyers at the start of his bail hearing in September, means CBC News and other outlets have so far been unable to report on details of what s passed the night of July 2. News agencies were also unable to report on the evidence presented during Zameer’s bail hearing and the reasons for the judge’s decision to release him after Northrup’s death.
Hasan explained in court that the original intent of the ban was to protect his client’s right to a fair trial, but maintaining it now would have the opposite effect, as would-be jurors hear “only one. side of the story “- that of the police.
“Publication bans like this are intended to protect the rights of the accused and the administration of justice. But in that case, maintaining the publication ban would hamper fair trial rights, ”Zameer’s lawyer Nader Hasan told CBC News.
“Mr. Zameer’s right to a fair trial is in serious jeopardy,” Hasan wrote in a brief calling for the ban to be relaxed.
A deposit questioned by elected officials
Zameer was released on bail on September 22. News of the decision prompted outrage on social media, including from elected officials including Ontario Premier Doug Ford as well as Toronto Mayor John Tory and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who did not hadn’t read the judge’s decision to release Zameer.
On the same day, Zameer’s attorney later told media he would act to try to adjust the ban.
Shortly after news of Zameer’s bail came to the public, Ford tweeted his shock at the decision, saying it was “completely unacceptable that the person responsible for this heinous crime should now be released on bail. “. Ford’s Twitter account has some 530,000 followers.
The tweet was then deleted and replaced with a version with slightly different wording.
Tory and Brown, both attorneys, also tweeted challenging the court ruling.
Hasan contends that statements like these only reinforce what he calls an “inaccurate account” of the incident – because police left key details about that night unanswered.
At a press conference given by Toronto Police Chief James Ramer following the incident, the chief called Zameer’s actions “deliberate and intentional.”
“Innuendo of the worst kind”
While Ramer’s intention was not to mislead the public, the effect was a combination of “inaccurate reporting and innuendo of the worst kind,” Hasan told the court.
“The inaccuracies there are filled with racist innuendo and replete with statements that this is an open and closed case and that Mr. Zameer is guilty,” Hasan said. He added that his client had been described as “a terrorist, a thug and a cop killer” without being able to share any details to counter this account.
A publication ban under section 517 of the Criminal Code is granted automatically at the request of the defense and is discretionary at the request of the Crown.
Assistant Crown Attorney Karen Simone argued the prosecution would have sought a discretionary ban – which the judge may decide to grant – had they known Hasan would seek to relax the ban at a later date.
Simone expressed concern that disclosure of additional information about the case could negatively affect a trial for both the Crown’s and Zameer’s needs.
She also argued that Zameer is not the first accused to have his release questioned by elected officials and that bail is often a highly politicized subject.
Decision expected mid-January
Justice Jill Copeland responded by citing a 1988 Supreme Court of Canada decision that called such behavior “reckless”.
However, she also said she was concerned the release of additional information would only fuel speculation about the case.
The Crown has now asked the court for a discretionary application of the existing ban.
It will be up to Copeland J. to decide whether to partially lift the ban as requested by Zameer’s lawyers, or to maintain it at the request of the Crown.
Copeland reserved her ruling and said she plans to issue a written ruling around mid-January.