Chief justice sides with media on right to publish abuse allegations against Dennis Oland

·3 min read

A judge has decided the media can publish details of intimate partner violence allegations against Dennis Oland.

In her decision released Thursday, Chief Justice of Court of Queen's Bench Tracey DeWare said the media can publish a transcript of a complaint made by Lisa Andrik-Oland, but only after 14 days have passed. The delay is to give lawyers a chance to appeal the decision.

Lisa Andrik-Oland, Oland's estranged wife, was granted an emergency intervention order under the Intimate Partner Violence Intervention Act from an adjudicative officer in June. The officer imposed a publication ban on the details of the complaint.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

After reviewing the finding of the officer, DeWare found there wasn't enough evidence to maintain the order without a hearing. At the hearing held a few days later, Andrik-Oland's lawyer said her client and Dennis Oland had reached an agreement and asked for the emergency order to be set aside.

In June, DeWare set the order aside but imposed a publication ban on the details of Andrik-Oland's complaint.

On Thursday, after hearing arguments from lawyers representing Oland, Andrik-Oland, the CBC and the Telegraph-Journal, DeWare decided the adjudicative officer had no jurisdiction to impose a publication ban on the details in the first place. She ruled maintaining that ban would be "inappropriate and not in conformity" with the open-court principle.

She ruled the publication ban should be lifted on the emergency intervention order and the application and recordings of Andrik-Oland's complaint. However, that information will remain under a ban for 14 days to give Oland and Andrik-Oland's lawyers a chance to appeal the ruling. If they appeal the ruling, the publication ban may be extended.

She said the media and the public may obtain a copy of the transcript of the recording of Andrik-Oland's application.

DeWare maintained a publication ban on Andrik-Oland's home or business address.

Public interest versus privacy concerns

The complaint came nearly a year after Oland was acquitted of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, Richard Oland.

During a hearing on Dec. 23 media lawyer David Coles argued there's public interest in revealing what evidence was used to obtain this emergency order. In a sworn affidavit, CBC senior manager Deborah Nobes said before the sentencing hearing at his first trial, Oland received more than 50 letters referring to his good character, but the granting of an emergency order would seem "at its face … seriously at odds" with those letters.

Andrik-Oland's lawyer Martha McCarthy said sometimes the open court principle "hampers access to justice," as in cases of sexual assault where victims don't come forward out of fear their complaint will be made public.

McCarthy also said the details should remain under a publication ban to maintain her client's privacy.

"She's entitled to finality and privacy," McCarthy said. "[She] didn't ask for any of this."

In her decision, DeWare said she saw no evidence that publishing the details of the allegations would cause serious harm to the administration of justice. She also said she found no evidence that publishing the details would stop future victims from accessing protections under the intimate partner violence emergency intervention legislation.