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Lower court can ban publication of Scientology hearing, judge rules

Title: Lower court can ban publication of Scientology hearing, judge rules
Date: Tuesday, 29 April 1986
Publisher: Toronto Star (Canada)
Author: Rick Haliechuk
Main source:

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An Ontario Supreme Court judge says a lower court can ban publication of the hearing of a Scientologist who is pleading guilty of possessing a stolen document.

Mr. Justice David Watt yesterday sent the case of Kathleen Lepp back to Provincial Court, but to a different judge than the one who ruled in January he lacked authority to issue the ban.

Lepp, other current and former members of the church and the church itself are facing a variety of criminal charges.

When Lepp was prepared to plead guilty in January, the church and several other co-accused asked Judge Robert Dneiper for a publication ban on grounds that publicity about Lepp's case could jeopardize their right to a fair trial.

A preliminary hearing on the charges against the church and the other individuals was to have begun shortly after Lepp's hearing.

Request refused

When Dneiper refused the request on the grounds he didn't have the jurisdiction, and indicated he would have turned it down anway, the church and the other members went to the Supreme Court.

Although Watt said he would not issue the publication ban, he found that the trial judge was wrong in concluding he lacked the jurisdiction to issue it.

"It is my further view that such authority is but an incident or an exemplification of the general common law authority enjoyed by courts of record to control their own process and to ensure that justice be done," Watt said.

Watt said it is almost "commonplace" for a judge to ban publication in a case when one person jointly charged with others pleads guilty, until the other accused have had their day in court.

Mel Green, a lawyer for the church and co-accused, said despite turning down the application for a publication ban, Watt's decision is a victory for the accused.

'Dangerous thing'

"He's clearly gone a long way in giving them (lower court) considerable guidance in the matter," Green said.

When he dismissed the church's application in January, Dneiper said the most dangerous thing a court could to is to give itself power it doesn't lawfully have.

"The second most dangerous is to interfere with free press," he said. "It would have to be made abundantly clear that the value to free publication is so little and the harm to someone else so great by publication, before I would even consider it. I do not believe that this would be such a case, anyhow."

Copyright 1986 Toronto Star