Media lawyers can see warrants potentially linked to Rob Ford scandal: judge
Published Tuesday, July 2, 2013 10:10AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 2, 2013 6:05PM EDT
A judge has ruled that search warrants Toronto police used in a string of drug and trafficking raids should be unsealed by Aug. 27 so that lawyers for a group of Canadian news organizations can review them.
Ontario court judge Philip Downes said Crown lawyers will provide a redacted version of the warrants in confidence to the media lawyers so they can make informed arguments in their bid to make the documents public.
The media group, which includes CTV, believes the warrants could shed light on whether Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is connected to any of the alleged gang members that were arrested in the Project Traveller raids.
Ford was photographed with two of the men who were arrested in the mid-June raids. A third man in the photo, Anthony Smith, was shot and killed outside a Toronto nightclub in March.
A formal court application filed by the media outlets, which among others includes CBC, The Canadian Press and The Globe and Mail, stated the information is “of great public interest.”
The location of the raids – a Dixon Road apartment complex – has been linked to an alleged video which appears to show Ford smoking from a crack pipe.
The raids came just weeks after reports of the video emerged. Ford has denied using crack cocaine and has said he cannot comment on a video that does not exist.
The existence and content of the video has not been authenticated by CTV News.
Media lawyer Peter Jacobsen said the public has a right to know the information contained in the search warrants.
“Being able to oversee what it is that the police have done, we need to get access to this material, which we have a right to,” he told CP24 after the ruling.
“The difficulty with this case is that we don't really know if the mayor has any direct connection.”
The Crown was asking the court to delay the media request by six months and had taken an unusual step of requesting secrecy from media lawyers hired.
But the judge said that request is “unjustified and unreasonable.”
Jacobsen said reporters have difficulties obtaining court documents in general and often need to seek permission from a judge to view certain files, despite the premise of an open court system.
In the last paragraph of his ruling, Downes said he is “sympathetic” to media outlets’ troubles, but it’s not within his scope of authority to make a “blanket” order on the matter.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said shortly after the raids that he will not speak about the evidence collected as part of Project Traveller. He has repeatedly stated that he will not disclose whether or not any of the evidence relates to the mayor, as discussing the evidence could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.
Submissions filed by the Crown in the case refer to wiretaps, and 40 warrants for everything from vehicle searches to cell phone records.
Weeks before the allegations against Ford emerged, police began investigating the existence of the purported video tape, a highly-placed source confirmed to CTV News.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Natalie Johnson