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Justin Bourque evidence posted with discretion at CBC

12/09/2014 02:38 EST | Updated 02/08/2015 05:59 EST
CBC News and other media outlets have faced increased scrutiny in recent days for publishing and broadcasting information related to the sentencing of Moncton Mountie killer Justin Bourque.

Criticisms have ranged from giving Bourque too much publicity, to being insensitive to the families of the officers involved, to trying to build an audience by capitalizing on a sensational story.

"There are a lot of people who don't want to see this material again," acknowledged Darrow MacIntyre, senior producer of news for CBC New Brunswick.

"But there are many, many, many people who do want to see it," he said, citing citizens who want to evaluate the police response to Bourque's shooting rampage in the southeastern New Brunswick city on June 4, to civil rights advocates who want to evaluate Bourque's sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years as possible examples.

"And it's their right to see it," said MacIntyre. "One of the cornerstones of the foundation of the justice system in this country is openness."

It was the Crown and defence who had applied to the Court of Queen's Bench, requesting that 19 exhibits presented in open court during Bourque's sentencing hearing in October be sealed, contrary to the open-court principle, said MacIntyre.

"We were not asking for anything unusual here," he said. "We weren’t asking for anything to be unsealed."

Chief Justice David Smith ruled Friday in favour of CBC and other media outlets that the information should remain public.

"The open-court principle is important in that it allows the public to go behind court decisions to see what further determined or influenced its decision; in other words, why the court decided what it did," Smith stated in his 11-page decision.

The Crown and defence failed to prove it was in the interest of the administration of justice to seal the videos, audio recordings and documents in question, he said.

Given careful consideration

CBC's job is to report the news, stressed MacIntyre. "They're public documents. We're the media. We're not in the business of censoring ourselves," he said.

Still, the decisions about what information to release were not taken lightly, said MacIntyre.

"We didn’t just throw this stuff up on TV willy-nilly, or put it up on the internet," he said. "The first thing we decided to do was go over it all."

Senior management reviewed the files, considered them carefully within the context of CBC's Journalism Standards and Practices guidelines, and consulted extensively, said MacIntyre.

Bourque's videotaped statement to police shortly after his arrest on June 5 was among the first piece of evidence to be broadcast and published by CBC.

"There’s all kinds of people who just want to look at Justin Bourque, they want to see him with their own two eyes, they want to look at the man, hear the tone of his voice, evaluate his body language and see for themselves who did this, and hear for themselves his explanation of why he did it," explained MacIntyre.

Some information withheld

Most of the other information will also be posted on the internet and broadcast on TV and radio, he said. "Again, I keep coming back to this idea — this is public information anyway."

But CBC has decided to withhold some information "for taste reasons," including police radio transmissions of the officers under fire and photographs of their wounds.

There's no public interest in posting or broadcasting those, said MacIntyre. "In fact, you could argue it's an invasion of their privacy," he said.

Similarly, audio recordings of victim impact statements by widows of the slain officers will not be made available, he said.

"They go into a lot of personal detail about their struggles of their daily lives, their relationships with their children and their other family members … Those are the kinds of things, things that we’ve decided they’re just too personal, too much intimate detail, or just in poor taste to show people."

Bourque, who recently turned 25, is serving five concurrent life sentences after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

He must serve 75 years before he is eligible to apply for parole.

It is the longest sentence without parole eligibility in Canadian history and the harshest sentence since the death penalty was abolished in 1962.

The RCMP officers he killed were:

- Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John.

- Const. Dave Joseph Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Que.

- Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, originally from Boulogne-Billancourt, France.

The officers he wounded were:

- Const. Éric Stéphane J. Dubois.

- Const. Marie Darlene Goguen.

Sentencing Hearing Brief by Crown

Sentencing Hearing Brief by Defence

Psychiatric Report

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