Publication ban ordered at hearing on jury checks

Jun 16, 2009 04:30 AM
 
Peter Small
COURTS BUREAU

A judge has imposed a sweeping publication ban on an "abuse of process" motion involving the selection of jurors at Barrie's courthouse.

Superior Court Justice Bruce Glass ordered the ban yesterday on all evidence and arguments presented at the hearing, which continues today.

Defence lawyer Mitchell Worsoff said last week that, as part of the motion, he has subpoenaed two Simcoe County court supervisors to explain how the Crown's office was able to obtain lists of prospective jurors almost two weeks before they were entitled to them by law.

According to previously disclosed evidence, the Crown sent the lists to local police forces, asking them to do wide-ranging background checks on the potential jurors.

On June 4, two jury panels totalling 240 people were dismissed after Worsoff argued his client, Ravi Badhwar, had his fair-trial rights breached by the secret checks.

Badhwar is accused of street racing in the 2007 highway death of trucker David Virgoe.

Worsoff's latest motion comes amid a growing scandal about the checks, with questions raised about privacy and fair-trial rights. The practice led to two recent mistrials.

 

Yesterday, information and privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian announced that as part of her probe into the checks she is sending a survey to all 54 Crown jurisdictions in Ontario. It will ask extensive questions going back three years to when the attorney general's office ordered a stop to checks for anything other than criminal records.

To determine whether police breached privacy rights, Cavoukian's survey will look at which databases they used to vet jurors.

A three-person team will also interview police and meet with the Crown's office and court staff in three cities (including Windsor and Thunder Bay) where checks occurred.

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