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Jul 28 , 2016


Stupid is as stupid does, publication ban edition

by Andrew Douglas
Stupid is as stupid does, publication ban edition

In hindsight, I probably should've obtained, y'know, a legal opinion or two before running off my mouth in a handful of media interviews regarding my recent run-in with the po-po. But I wasn't too worried.

In case you missed the Halifax Regional Police press release and all the subsequent news coverage, I, Andrew Douglas, the managing editor of Frank Magazine, am facing a criminal charge for allegedly breaching a publication ban placed on evidence given at the preliminary hearing of Christopher Garnier, who is charged with second degree murder in the 2015 death of Stellarton native police officer Catherine Campbell. A conviction for breaching a publication ban brings with it a maximum fine of $5,000, six months in jail, or both. But again, I wasn't too worried.

Being reasonably familiar with how publication bans work, I was of the belief that time was on my side. That is, when the publication ban was put in place versus when my story was published.

According to reporters present at day one of the preliminary hearing on July 11, lawyers on both sides spent most of the morning discussing various issues pertaining to the publication ban with the judge. These discussions included two separate sessions that were held in-camera, meaning the public was cleared from the courtroom. These discussions took us right up to the noon hour. Just before court broke for lunch, one particular document was sealed by the judge.

Meantime, the offending story in question - which details, among other things, Constable Campbell's disciplinary record - was posted on at about 10:30am on Monday, July 11. On the print side of things, the pages that would comprise Frank 746, which includes the piece at issue, were sent to Advocate Printing in Pictou on July 8. Final revisions were made on July 10. And the magazine was already on the printing press when court opened for the morning on July 11.

The fact that the story was researched, written, edited, polished, set in stone and published before a publication ban was officially put in place certainly suggests that the charge is entirely without merit. But, as it turns out, time isn't the only thing on my side.

Now that I've gone ahead and obtained a, y'know, proper legal opinion, it seems to me that if the Halifax Regional Police wish to avoid a lawsuit for malicious prosecution, they might be wise to issue another press release forthwith, declaring that they've made a terrible mistake, and Andrew Douglas can tear up his pesky summons and go about his work with the HRP's best regards, sincerest regrets and most heartfelt of grovelling apologies.

According to gold-plated advice from one of the province's most respected jurists, if Frank Magazine gleaned its information from a source other than what occurred at the preliminary inquiry, Frank is free to publish. That is, in this particular legalist's words, "hard law". And, since Frank's story was on the printing press when the preliminary hearing opened on July 11, the fact that this publication gleaned its information from a source other than the preliminary hearing is incontrovertible.

So why is it that Halifax Regional Police are poised to lay a charge in a case that doesn't have a hope of garnering a conviction? Is it possible, in this case, the HRP, Detective Const. Christian Pluta and his partner, Sgt. Greg Robertson, who handed me a summons on the evening of July 26, have something else on their minds? That Frank Magazine ought to be punished for sullying the good name of a deceased police officer, perhaps? Certainly possible.

Whatever the motivation, neither side will confirm whether HRP consulted the Crown before police issued my summons.

When asked if police consulted with them, N.S. Public Prosecutions Service mouthpuppet Chris Hansen said that I'd have to ask the cops, because she's not at liberty to say. It's a solicitor/client privilege sorta thing. As for HRP spokesthingy Const. Alicia Joseph, she just wouldn't answer the question.   

Generally, she said that their investigators regularly consult with the Crown in relation to whether or not to lay a charge. But she refused to say if her colleagues requested help from the Crown on this occasion, saying that they never comment on the particulars of an investigation. Especially this investigation, which in all likelihood consisted solely of purchasing a copy of my organ and doing a Google search for "defy publication ban = bad".

In summation, either the cops laid the charge without consulting with the Crown (which woulda been supremely stupid, but which makes the most sense); they consulted with the Crown and the Crown advised them there's no case but they laid the charge anyway (even stupider!) or they consulted with the Crown and the Crown recommended that a charge be laid (stupidest!).

Whatever happened to lead us where we are today, we have seen what stupid is. Now it'll be fascinating to see what stupid does.

My summons says I have to be in Spring Garden Road Provincial Court on September 6. If the thing isn't cancelled well before that, I'm legally obliged to be there of course, but you can be sure I'll have a bit more of a spring in my step than the average defendant.   

CONTACT US: Frank Magazine Box 295, Halifax N.S. B3J 2N7 -- Phone: 902 420 1668 -- Fax: 902 423 0281