Access to Public Information, Content Regulation / Censorship, Digital Rights, Internet Shutdowns, National Security
SERAP v. Federal Republic of Nigeria
Closed Expands Expression
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The Canadian Rules of Criminal Procedure allow the broadcasting of a recording of a hearing. However, this does not apply to the broadcasting of a video recording of a statement before a trial entered into evidence. These types of exhibits are at the discretion of the trial judge whether to permit broadcasting based on a balancing test of freedom of speech, open courts, and the fair administration of justice.
Appellants: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Her Majesty The Queen, Stephan Dufour
Respondents: Attorney General of Canada, Attorney General of Quebec, Attorney General of New Brunswick, Attorney General of Alberta, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, and Canadian Civil Liberties Assciation
Stephen Dufour was charged with aiding suicide. At the trial of the defendant, Stephan Dufour, the state produced a video of a statement that the defendant had made in evidence. Journalists were permitted to view the film. The Canadian Broadcasting Company asked the court to authorize the broadcasting of the recording, which the Court denied, because the Rules of Criminal Practice “prohibit any broadcasting of a recording of a hearing, the broadcasting of a video recording should also be prohibited.” [para. 3] The Canadian Broadcasting Company then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Court noted the importance of balancing freedom of the press, justice, and the principle of an open courts system. The Court found that the trial judge may have interpreted the Rules of Criminal Practice too broadly, and if the trial were still ongoing remand would be appropriate. This is because the Rules of Criminal Practice do not apply to videos in evidence; only to recordings of proceedings. However, the trial was over at the time of this appeal and the defendant was acquitted, therefore making the case moot.
The Court still analyzed the issue at bar, of whether or not a video statement entered into evidence could be broadcast. The Court found that the trial judge, in considering a motion such as this should weigh “the serenity of the hearing, trial fairness, and the fair administration of justice.” [para. 18] Leaving behind this standard of review at the discretion of the trial judge for future questions about the broadcasting of video recordings entered into evidence, the Supreme Court dismissed the action.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case expands expression by allowing the trial court to decide on a case-by-case basis, based on a balancing test, whether video recordings entered into evidence can be broadcast.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
This decision of the Supreme Court of Canada binds Canada’s lower courts.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.