Canadian Criminal Procedure and Practice/Pre-Trial Matters/Public and Media Restrictions

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Excluding witnesses[edit | edit source]

Before the commencement of trial it is normally expected that all prospective witnesses will be excluded from the courtroom. This will usually be on the motion of one of the parties or the court itself.

The reason for excluding witnesses is because a witnesses ability to hear the evidence of other witnesses before testifying can negatively affect the credibility of the witness.[1]

Public and Media Ban[edit | edit source]

There are several types of publication ban permitted under the criminal code:

  • An order restricting the publication of information identifying complainants of sexual offences [ s.486.4 ]
  • An order restricting publication of information identifying victims and witnesses [ s.486.5(1) ]
  • An order restricting publication of information identifying a justice system participant [ s.486.5(2) ]

Under s. 486.6, anyone who violates any of these orders (s. 486.4(1), (2) or (3) or 486.5(1) or (2)) can be liable for a summary conviction offence.

General Publication Ban (s. 486(1),(2))[edit | edit source]

Section 486.5(1) provides the court with the authority to make an order "directing that any information that could identify the victim or witness shall not be published in any document or broadcast or transmitted in any way if the judge or justice is satisfied that the order is necessary for the proper administration of justice."

While section 486.5(2) provides the authority to make an order to not reveal "information that could identify the justice system participant".

This can be applied for by a prosecutor, a victim or a witness, a judge or justice. (s. 486.5(1))

Under s.486.5(4), the application must be made in writing and notice must be given to the prosecutor, accused, or any other person affected by the order that the judge specifies. The application itself as well as the contents of a hearing on the application cannot be published.(s. 486.5(6), (9))

The order shall only be made where the applicant establishes that the order is "necessary for the proper administration of justice". (s. 486(1), (2), (5))

The factors that must be considered to decide whether to proceed are set out in s. 486.5(7):

(a) the right to a fair and public hearing;
(b) whether there is a real and substantial risk that the victim, witness or justice system participant would suffer significant harm if their identity were disclosed;
(c) whether the victim, witness or justice system participant needs the order for their security or to protect them from intimidation or retaliation;
(d) society’s interest in encouraging the reporting of offences and the participation of victims, witnesses and justice system participants in the criminal justice process;
(e) whether effective alternatives are available to protect the identity of the victim, witness or justice system participant;
(f) the salutary and deleterious effects of the proposed order;
(g) the impact of the proposed order on the freedom of expression of those affected by it; and
(h) any other factor that the judge or justice considers relevant.

Sexual Offence Publication Ban[edit | edit source]

Under s. 486.4 (1), the court may make an order "directing that any information that could identify the complainant or a witness" not be published, broadcast or transmitted for any sexual offences (as listed in s. 486.4(1)(a)).

Any complainant or witness under the age of 18 years old must be notified of their right to make an application for an order, and if requested by the complainant, prosecutor or witness under 18 years of age, the judge must made the order. (s. 486.4(2))

Similarly, under 486.4(3), for charges under 163.1, the court must make an order in relation to any person who comprises the subject of child pornographic materials.

  1. R. v. Smuk (1971), 3 CCC (2d) 457 (BCCA)

Jury Identification Ban[edit | edit source]

Under 631(6), the court or crown may order a publication ban on any information that may tend to identify jury members where it "is necessary for the proper administration of justice".

Public Access to Evidence[edit | edit source]

A judge should only refuse a request from the media to access evidence from a preliminary inquiry after the conclusion of trial where:

  1. such an order is necessary to prevent a serious risk to the proper administration of justice because reasonably alternative measures will not prevent the risk; and
  2. the salutary effects of the ban outweigh the deleterious effects on the rights and interests of the parties and the public, including the effects on the right to free expression, the right of the accused to a fair and public trial, and the efficacy of the administration of justice.

The judge must rely on actual evidence and not simply judicial common sense and logic alone.[1]

See also Canadian Criminal Procedure and Practice/Disclosure

  1. CTV Television Inc. v. R. et al., 2006 MBCA 132 (CanLII)

Excluding Public from Court[edit | edit source]

Section 486 sets out the basic premise that all criminal proceedings are held in open court but persons can be excluded where it is "in the interest of public morals, the maintenance of order, the proper administration of justice" or injury to international relations or national defence/security.

Exclusion of public in certain cases
486. (1) Any proceedings against an accused shall be held in open court, but the presiding judge or justice may order the exclusion of all or any members of the public from the court room for all or part of the proceedings if the judge or justice is of the opinion that such an order is in the interest of public morals, the maintenance of order or the proper administration of justice or is necessary to prevent injury to international relations or national defence or national security.

Protection of witnesses under 18 and justice system participants
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the “proper administration of justice” includes ensuring that

(a) the interests of witnesses under the age of eighteen years are safeguarded in all proceedings; and
(b) justice system participants who are involved in the proceedings are protected.

Reasons to be stated
(3) If an accused is charged with an offence under section 151, 152, 153, 153.1, 155 or 159, subsection 160(2) or (3) or section 163.1, 170, 171, 171.1, 172, 172.1, 172.2, 173, 212, 271, 272, 273, 279.01, 279.011, 279.02 or 279.03 and the prosecutor or the accused applies for an order under subsection (1), the judge or justice shall, if no such order is made, state, by reference to the circumstances of the case, the reason for not making an order.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 486; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 203, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 14, c. 23 (4th Supp.), s. 1; 1992, c. 1, s. 60(F), c. 21, s. 9; 1993, c. 45, s. 7; 1997, c. 16, s. 6; 1999, c. 25, s. 2(Preamble); 2001, c. 32, s. 29, c. 41, ss. 16, 34, 133; 2002, c. 13, s. 20; 2005, c. 32, s. 15, c. 43, ss. 4, 8; 2010, c. 3, s. 4; 2012, c. 1, s. 28.


These provisions can be used at any time in a proceeding, including trial and sentencing.

Reference[edit | edit source]