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BCCLA to apply to unseal RCMP defamation search warrant

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The BC Civil Liberties Association will be applying to court to unseal a search warrant executed by the RCMP against a blogger in an investigation for criminal “Defamatory Libel”. A warrant is usually sealed by the Court to protect confidential information related to informants; however, applications can be made for the Court to release the warrants where the public interest requires it.

“This is a highly charged public matter where someone who has been publicly very critical of the RCMP has been subjected to a search warrant related solely to what the RCMP deems to be criminal speech,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “The public has a right to know on what basis this RCMP critic has had his computers and phones taken. We hope to convince the Court that to seal a warrant in this circumstance is highly prejudicial to the public interest.”

The BCCLA has been provided a copy of a search warrant that was executed in New Westminster by the RCMP and New Westminster police department on August 18, 2012. Every search warrant has an Information to Obtain a Search Warrant (“ITO”) which is sworn by a police officer to explain to a Judge or Justice of the Peace why a search warrant is required. In most cases, the ITO is public. In a very few cases, a Judge or Justice of the Peace will agree to seal a warrant so that the public cannot access it.

“Our organization is very concerned with what we see as an increasing use of this section of the Criminal Code to silence people who are critical of police,” says Lyster. “We have tracked three cases using this provision of the Criminal Code recently, one in New Brunswick, one in Ontario, and now this case, and all three cases involve critics of the police. We are concerned any time the massive power of the criminal law is deployed against people interested in police accountability.”

The BCCLA will begin the process tomorrow for the ITO to be released.

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