Lawyer blasts publication ban of murder accused

Nicolaas van Rijn
Jul. 27, 2002
A court-ordered publication ban forbidding the media from printing the name of the individual charged with the murder of a Toronto couple is an "insidious" outgrowth of an earlier decision to ban publication of an accused police officer's name, a Toronto criminal lawyer says.

Paul Burstein said the latest decision to ban publication of an accused's name offends the public's right to know what is happening in an open court.

While banning publication of a suspect's name might be warranted in "an exceptional case," Burstein said, it's not enough for a lawyer to simply claim the case is "exceptional" without submitting supporting evidence.

The most recent publication ban to forbid publication of an accused's name was issued by a justice of the peace Thursday after an individual was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a Toronto couple whose bodies were found in Oro-Medonte township, just north of Barrie.

Bong Thi Bui and her husband Dung That Ton, both 44-year-old immigrants from Vietnam, were found May 25 in a car abandoned in a field.

While someone was arrested and taken into custody by Barrie and Orillia OPP on Thursday, little else is known. The refusal to release details, OPP Constable Janet Small said, "is a safety concern for the accused and the accused's family."

That same rationale was used in June to protect the name of Toronto police Constable Richard Wills, who was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Linda Mariani.

The ban was later lifted by Mr. Justice Bruce Glass, who agreed the ban was improper and "did not have foundation when it was made."

The initial ban on publishing Wills' name was also imposed by a justice of the peace. When the decision was appealed to a superior court by lawyers for The Star and other media, neither Danson nor the crown opposed the lifting of the ban.

That in itself was a problem, Burstein said yesterday. "The first time, it involved a police officer, and we know that the criminal justice system always affords them extra special treatment, more on the lenient side. I would say it's unfortunate, but I didn't find it surprising."

And when the lawyers were called on to justify that order to a higher court, they didn't even try, Burstein said.