04/03/2013 17:54 EDT | Updated 06/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Magnotta research interview should be protected, profs say

Lawyers for two professors from the University of Ottawa are in court arguing that the contents of an interview conducted with Luka Magnotta as part of a research study should be protected under so-called "confidentiality privilege."

The study was about sex work and intimacy.

The research in question is a portion of an interview with Magnotta conducted in 2007 by a graduate student working under the criminologists.

After Magnotta's arrest in Berlin last spring, the grad student contacted police and said told investigators he had interviewed the accused several years before as part of a larger project.

The student had signed confidentially documentation, and Magnotta's real name was not used as part of the research.

Police obtained a warrant to seize an audio recording and transcript of that interview, but the contents of it were sealed after the researchers challenged the validity of the seizure.

Magnotta was charged in May with the murder of Concordia University student Jun Lin. A preliminary hearing in the case is underway in Montreal and will resume Monday following a two-week break.

Threat to academic freedom

In a Montreal court Wednesday, lawyers representing the researchers argued that academic freedom is at risk if they are forced to reveal the identity of their subjects and the information obtained from those interviews.

They pointed to a sex work case in Ontario, which one of the criminologists worked on, that led to the legalization of some forms of prostitution. That decision could end up before the Supreme Court.

Lawyers representing the criminologist pointed to that case as an indication of the serious nature of the research and the implications it could have on public interest issues. They argued that is why researchers should have privileges to guarantee anonymity for those who participate in similar projects.

They argued that the work could be hindered in the future if they cannot guarantee confidentiality to their subjects.

The hearing, which is scheduled for two days, resumed this afternoon.