The Rights of Victims of Violent Crimes
Respect and dignity for family of murdered man
A victim(s) is an individual who has suffered physical or emotional damage as a result of a crime. Canada has what is known as the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act. This act provides fundamental rights to those who have been affected by crime. In particular, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act states that “victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect, including respect for their dignity” (2015). However, the advances of technology and the media can sometimes pose a threat to the rights of victims.
In 2017, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador experienced its first third party in a criminal case using the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act. Normally in a criminal proceeding, there are only two parties, the Crown and the Defence. However, in this particular case, a woman’s common-law spouse had been killed in front of her in an armed robbery.
The Canadian legal system has an “open court principle” which allows the media to attend court, observe, and report on what takes place in the courtroom. This right also extends to the medias right to make copies of exhibits for reprint. In order to prevent the media from publicizing these exhibits, two conditions must be met for a judge to grant a publication ban. These conditions are:
During the criminal proceedings of the accused, it was a possibility that the media could obtain the autopsy photos of the victim as well as the video footage of the actual murder. The release of such photos and the video would have been traumatizing for the woman and her family.
In order to prevent the publication of the autopsy photos and the video of the crime, Budden & Associates intervened on behalf of the woman to obtain a publication ban. It was argued in the proceedings that permitting the broadcast of the video showing the death of the victim, as well as the publication and broadcast of autopsy photographs, would have a deleterious effects on our client as it would force her to relive the victimization experience of the attempted armed robbery, as well as the trauma of her spouses death. Also, the broadcast of the video and photos would significantly affect the children and grandchildren.
It is important to note that this publication ban would not infringe on the “open court principle” protected under s. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the application for the ban was not seeking to restrict the media from the court hearings but from publicizing and duplicating the autopsy photos and video.
In this case the judge ruled that any video or photos of the victim that had not been previously made public to remain unpublished. The families of murder victims (who are defined as victims themselves under the act) have a tendency to be over looked. Re-traumatization can occur as family members are forced to relive their nightmares stunting their road to recovery. This important court decision protected the rights of victims as it respected their right to privacy and treated the family with compassion. It was an important victory for victims’ rights and should assist future victims who wish to protect their privacy and the dignity of a murdered love one.
Budden & Associates was pleased with this decision. We stand with the victims of crime, whether that is seeking compensation through civil claims, or acting as an advocate to ensure victims are respected in criminal trials.
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