Wednesday, June 29, 2005

To see thee more clearly

This looks like a victory for increased transparency: Ottawa — Search warrants should only be sealed from the public when releasing the information would clearly threaten the judicial process, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday. The 9-0 ruling is a victory for press freedom and the public's right to know. It means the Crown and police must do more than simply argue that publicity would hamper their investigations. The top court says sealing orders must pass the same stringent tests that are used to keep court proceedings as open as possible, and this is true even in the early stages of an investigation before charges are laid. Occasionally the Supremes do get something entirely right, without the usual 5-4 split. There ought to be very good reasons for limiting the public's access to information about ongoing investigations. If there are, only then should there be active application for sealing documents. Not to say that the standard procedures for publication bans on court proceedings are flawless, of course, but it's a step in the right direction.

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