“It's certainly a huge issue in terms of freedom of the press and the public's right to information,” Iris Fischer, a media lawyer who worked on the case, said of the ruling.
“Right now it's very rare that bail hearings can be reported on. Usually the public has no idea — if someone has been granted bail in a high-profile case — why or why not.”
A section of the Criminal Code stipulates that if an accused asks for a publication ban on a bail hearing it is automatically granted. The evidence heard at those hearings cannot be reported until a trial is over.
But in a 3-2 decision Monday, the Appeal Court ruled that should only be the case when there is a chance an ensuing trial might be heard before a jury.
The Alberta Court of Appeal recently fully upheld the bail hearing publication ban section of the Criminal Code, but media lawyers have sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
That issue was brought about in regards to the case of Michael White, who was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife. The Ontario case came about from the so-called Toronto 18 terror suspects' bail hearings.
The Ontario court ruled that in cases involving lesser offences that would only be heard by a judge, the accused should have to argue why a publication ban on the bail hearing is warranted.
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that while such publication bans are necessary to protect an accused's right to a fair trial, the section of the Criminal Code dealing with bans is unconstitutional.
The decision also means that if at any point it's decided the case is to be tried by judge alone, then the publication ban on the evidence is lifted.
The two judges who dissented would have removed the automatic aspect to publication bans even in cases where a jury trial is possible, Ms. Fischer said.