Ghost trial: details will remain secret, judges the Court of Appeal

Phantom trial: details will remain secret, judges the Court of Appeal

The nature of the alleged crime and the administrative region where it was allegedly committed are unknown, as is the police force involved.

Dubbed a “ghost trial” for the lack of any leaked information about him, the case involving a police informant will remain in the shadow of meticulously preserved anonymity, despite the efforts of various media – including Radio-Canada – to compel justice to reveal the details.

In its decision released Wednesday, the Quebec Court of Appeal upholds all associated publication bans to the mysterious case that is only known to involve a police informant – a man or a woman – convicted of participating in a crime he originally revealed to the police.

Thus, the Court confirms that the privilege of anonymity promised to a police informer takes precedence over all the other considerations put forward by the opposing parties, in particular public access to information.

The existence of the lawsuit only became known because the informant accused in the case appealed against his conviction at first instance. This person requested a stay of proceedings against her because of the abusive conduct of the police against her […], refers to the Court document.

The judgment recognizes the judicial dilemma underlying the case, between the imperative need to protect the identity of the police informer and the importance, nevertheless, of publicly broadcasting the decisions of the judges, since justice must not be done secretly quotes the document of about sixty pages.

The publicity of the proceedings is particularly important so that the public is convinced of the probity of the actions of the judges, specifies the judgment, indicating that these observations apply just as much, if not more, in the context of a criminal trial. /p>

“It is impossible to know in the abstract how these two principles will be respected. »

— Excerpt from the judgment of the Quebec Court of Appeal

Citing the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal recalls the absolute privilege of the informant who agrees to provide sensitive information to the police, to benefit from the secrecy surrounding any information likely to reveal his identity. This measure consists in particular in avoiding any reprisals from the denounced criminal milieu.

In this case, the judge defends the unprecedented precautions taken to protect the anonymity of the Designated Person, whether it is a question of not publishing the indictments, nor the dates, nor even the identity of the judge, that of the court and its district, or the police force involved and the lawyers of the informant.

The anonymous judge also defends the holding of a closed session to avoid any unexpected leak of information which would provide information on the identity of the informant. In addition, he supports the exceptional efforts made to keep the case under the radar of court news by keeping the judgment sealed, and allowing no publication to appear in the plumitif – the public register of judicial records in Quebec. .

“We find ourselves in a trial of which only the protagonists (judge, prosecutor, Designated Person, and lawyers) knew the existence. »

— Excerpt from the judgment of the Quebec Court of Appeal

In this extraordinary case, all those involved seem to have acted with the utmost honesty, mentions the decision of the Court of Appeal, mentioning however that errors may have been made, but not with the aim of hiding things from the public. .

Me Christian Leblanc, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs consisting of the Société Radio-Canada, La Presse inc., the Coopérative nationale de l' independent news, Montreal Gazette and The Canadian Press, considers that certain basic information could [be revealed] without jeopardizing the identity of the indicator, he explained on RDI on Wednesday.

Calling this “ghost trial” highly exceptional, the legal scholar argued the difference between knowing that a trial exists with closed and secrecy orders and, on the other hand, not knowing that a lawsuit exists and is happening.

My clients believe there should be more transparency on this trial, he added. Maintaining public confidence in our justice system requires transparent justice.

The losing parties could turn to the Supreme Court, but more difficultly to the judge of the court of first instance, his identity not having been disclosed.

In Quebec, the office of the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, refused to comment on the decision of the Court of Appeal in this file, explaining that the ministry is currently analyzing the judgment.

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