POLITICS

Publication ban in Oland murder case akin to stuffing genie in bottle: lawyer

04/23/2013 01:32 EDT | Updated 06/23/2013 05:12 EDT
SAINT JOHN, N.B. - There is no evidence to support a New Brunswick judge's decision to place a publication ban on the identities of people subjected to search warrants in the murder of businessman Richard Oland, a lawyer for two news outlets argued Tuesday.

David Coles, who represents Brunswick News and the CBC, said the ruling by Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson of the provincial court is unreasonable, adding that the names of those people were previously reported.

"This was a case where media observed the searches and reported on them," Coles told Judge Bill Grant of the Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John.

"It brings the court into disrespect with the public when we try to stuff genies back into bottles."

He said the names can also be accessed by anyone willing to spend $90 to get the search warrants from the court.

No arrests have been made since Oland was found slain nearly two years ago and Coles said the public deserves to know why.

But lawyer Gary Miller, representing an interested party who supports maintaining the publication ban, said it is still needed to protect the rights of innocent people.

"The horse may have gotten out of the barn, but you can rope him up and put him back in," Miller said.

He said the news media didn't ask Jackson to lift the publication ban when he implemented it last fall and shouldn't be able to ask the court to remove it now.

But Coles said there was no opportunity to make arguments opposing the ban when Jackson delivered his decision.

Crown attorney John Henheffer, who represents the Saint John police and the provincial attorney general, said Jackson was aware of the law when he made his decision and examined the case carefully.

"Judge Jackson's decision was both correct and reasonable," Henheffer said.

Grant reserved his decision.

Portions of the search warrants released last October said police had a suspect in mind who was "experiencing financial hardships" and owed Oland, 69, more than $500,000.

They also said the owner of the building where Oland worked told investigators he was working directly below Oland's office on July 6, 2011, when he heard six or seven "exceptionally loud quick pounding thumps" emanating from upstairs.

Oland's body was found in his office the next day.

The warrants also showed that police seized 57 items from a home in the Saint John suburb of Rothesay. Those items include legal papers, bank statements, garbage bags, bedding, clothing, a purple purse and a "note in a purse."

The records also reveal that police searched a 7.6-metre yacht, which was docked at the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club in Saint John. The record says "genealogy papers/books/documents" were sought.

The Crown kept DNA swabs that were taken of ignition keys, cabin doors, gas cans, scrub brushes, sinks, a red stain on the sink and other parts of the boat, the documents say.

Oland was a member of the family that owns Moosehead Breweries Ltd., but left the company in the 1980s.

He also worked in the trucking business, at the Saint John Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., and as a director of several firms, including Eastern Provincial Airways, Newfoundland Capital Corp., and Ganong Bros.