NEWS

Russell Williams Divorce: Wife Loses Bid To Shield Documents

01/24/2012 05:09 EST | Updated 01/25/2012 09:26 EST

The wife of convicted murderer Russell Williams has lost her bid to keep details of her proposed divorce proceedings private.

Williams's wife is seeking a divorce from the former colonel and had fought to keep the proceedings private, which would have sealed documents related to the case.

CBC and other media outlets appealed a publication ban, arguing among other reasons that the public has a right to know whether Williams tried to shield his assets by signing them over to his wife.

The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with the media outlets Tuesday, but is giving the woman 14 days to consider whether to challenge the ruling before publication restrictions are lifted.

That means details about the former colonel's wife, including her name, address, employer, income and medical information are still under a publication ban in relation to the proposed divorce proceedings.

While a medical assessment of Williams's wife is covered under the ban, details of that assessment referenced by the court in its decision are not covered by the ban.

Life 'turned upside down,' doctor says

The decision reveals that the woman's psychiatrist described her as shocked, confused and unable to sleep, and said she felt as if her life had been "turned upside down" after her husband was charged.

Her doctor told the court Williams' wife could not stay in the family home or go to work for weeks after her husband's arrest. About two or three months later, however, she had returned home and was back at work.

Williams's wife was apprehensive about the publicity her divorce proceedings might draw, according to her doctor, who said she would likely become seriously ill "if pushed beyond her ability to cope."

The appeal court said in its decision that the personal concerns of public embarrassment are not enough by themselves to justify non-publication or sealing orders and said assessing emotional distress versus emotional harm is a matter of degree to be measured against the media's right to report on court proceedings.

Impact of public trial debated

The appeals court also said it had difficulty squaring the doctor's concerns about the impact of the divorce proceedings with the woman's reaction to her husband's murder trial.

"She has endured, and I would say overcome, the worst of the media storm surrounding Williams. After the intense initial shock, she has picked up the pieces of her life and gone about the business of living that life. There is no reason to think that any publicity arising from the divorce proceedings will come remotely close to the publicity that surrounded Williams' criminal proceedings," the court wrote in its decision.

The court did note that she is "indeed yet another victim of Williams' depravity."

Russell Williams pleaded guilty to 88 charges and was sentenced in October 2010 to two terms of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for the first-degree murders of Jessica Lloyd and Canadian Forces Cpl. Marie-France Comeau.

He was also sentenced to 10 years for each of his two charges of sexual assault and two charges of forcible confinement, as well as one year for each of the other 82 charges.