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Bernardo tape released to the media, but not without pointless proviso

One of the surreal aspects of our 24-hour real-time media universe came into precise focus this morning in Justice David McComb’s fourth-floor courtroom at 361 University Avenue. He ordered that copies of Paul Bernardo’s interview with police regarding the Robert Baltovich case be released to the press. The order was carried out over a couple of hours, rendering the logistics in this matter chaotic, if not absurd. While a gaggle of press vultures (including this stooped reporter) hung over his shoulder, Iain MacKinnon—the lawyer who argued on behalf of CBC, CTV, CanWest and Rogers—burned copies of the original onto DVDs in order to make good on the court’s order. He even used his own laptop.

At one point, an argument broke out, with a reporter contending that the applicants in the case (listed above) should receive copies before the other media outlets. The Crown, Shawn Porter, shook his head vigorously, saying emphatically, “The judge’s intention is clear. Everybody gets it at the same time.” Later, I volunteered my laptop to test copies of the copies. The sight of Bernardo’s scarecrow figure on my screen made me nauseous.

But in the hierarchy of absurdity and surreality, nothing could top the court’s finding itself. In order to meet the Crown’s concerns about the potentially toxic effects of Bernardo’s receiving a public airing of his “views” on the Baltovich matter, the court stated that:

The order shall provide that the copies of the DVD exhibit may be used by the applicants or either of the respondents ‘in furtherance of their legitimate business or professional interests, provided, however that they shall not further distribute or disseminate any copies of the DVD exhibit.’ The order shall also provide that ‘no further copies shall be provided to anyone else without the express authority of a judge of this court.’

No matter how thin you slice the cheese, this is a ridiculous proviso. All it seems to do is afford the court solace that somehow their decision isn’t adding to the 24-hour hurly-burly that is the media maelstrom surrounding this matter.

Maelstrom or not, it’s also called the public’s right to know, and weak sisters like McComb ought to get used to it.

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