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Media win access to court files

The attorney general of Ontario, Chris Bentley, spent yesterdayafternoon meeting with small groups of reporters and media lawyers toannounce that the practice of withholding court information is beingabolished.

The attorney general of Ontario, Chris Bentley, spent yesterday afternoon meeting with small groups of reporters and media lawyers to announce that the practice of withholding court information is being abolished.

In the past, instead of trusting news organizations to comply with laws or court orders restricting publication of names in certain cases, the ministry directed court staff to treat the file as if its entire contents were off-limits to the public.

Bentley said the ministry took “a fresh look” at its policy after seeing less restrictive approaches in other provinces and he credited the media, particularly a Justice Media Liaison Committee set up by his ministry in 2007, for “convincing me that we can be more open.”

“I think it’s a big policy change,” he said.

“This is a necessary step that should have been taken a long time ago,” lawyer Brian Rogers, a media liaison committee member, told reporters yesterday.

Without access to court documents, reporters “can’t possibly provide the public with the information they need to know on a timely basis.

“And without that, we don’t have a court system that is open and (that) … the public can understand or have confidence in,” Rogers said.

 
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