01/08/2016 13:56 EST | Updated 01/08/2017 00:12 EST

Nova Scotia judge rejects application for publication ban in Barrett cases

SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia judge has rejected a defence lawyer's application to impose a publication ban on the first trial of a man accused of second-degree murder in the deaths of two young women.

In February 2013, police in Cape Breton charged Thomas Barrett with murdering Elizabeth MacKinnon and Laura Jessome in separate cases that span six years.

Judge Robin Gogan says her assessment of the application involved balancing conflicting rights: Barrett's right to a fair trial and the public's right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press.

Barrett's first trial, by judge alone, is scheduled for Jan. 18, and the second trial, to be heard by a jury, is set for Sept, 12, 2016.

Gogan concluded there is some risk to the fair trial of the accused, but she said the evidence fails to establish that it is a "real and substantial risk."

She says her conclusion is based mainly on the fact that the trials are scheduled to start just under nine months apart.

The Canadian Press

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