EDITORIAL: Media must obey the law, too

In the absence until Aug. 18 of even a brief court appearance by a 16-year-old accused of first-degree murder, the rumour mill has been busily grinding.

You might have heard rumours. We have, but we couldn’t pass them on even if we confirmed their validity.

In the absence until Aug. 18 of even a brief court appearance by a 16-year-old accused of first-degree murder, the rumour mill has been busily grinding.

You might have heard rumours. We have, but we couldn’t pass them on even if we confirmed their validity.

Although much of what most of us know about courtrooms comes from television and movies, a huge majority of that is coming from the States.

The legal systems in the two countries differ in some important ways, including how juries are handled.

Juries in the U.S. tend to be sequestered, booked into hotel rooms during important trials and isolated from what the media is reporting.

This gives the media much more latitude in what can be reported than in this country.

The Canadian system typically does not sequester juries until they actually begin to deliberate a verdict.

To avoid jurors from being unduly prejudiced even before trials begin or to prevent them from learning information that a judge might later rule inadmissible, Canadian courts impose sweeping publication bans on information that might subsequently be evidence.

In the case of a serious leak, a judge could declare a mistrial or a change of venue, billing the offending media outlet for the cost of moving a trial to another community.

Either way, a contempt of court charge is a real possibility.

It’s tough for us to know something we are sure our readers would want to read, and be forbidden from printing it, but that’s the playing field.

Even input by letter-to-the-editor writers and online commenters can invoke the wrath of the courts. This is why we have regretfully banned commenting on any stories about the murder of James Denton on our website.

Rest assured, we will report what we can when we can, but for a time our coverage will be limited.

Of course, police want to speak to anyone with information about the stabbing. Call the RCMP at 250-334-1321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

editor@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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