The Pitfalls of Publication Bans in Sexual Assault Cases

  • May 01, 2021
  • Emma Romano, media & defamation lawyer, WeirFoulds LLP

In March 2021, a Waterloo woman was convicted of violating a routine publication ban issued in a sexual assault case in which she was the victim.[1] The publication ban was put in place to prevent her name and identifying information from being published in connection with the prosecution. 

The woman’s ex-husband was convicted of sexually assaulting her. She ordered a transcript of the judge’s reasons and e-mailed it to a group of family and friends. Her ex-husband caught wind of this and notified the police that she may have violated the publication ban by sharing the transcript. She was charged with violating a court order, pleaded guilty, and was ordered to pay a fine of $2,000 and a $600 victim surcharge.

There has been public outcry about this decision from victims’ advocates and lawyers. The woman has since retained new counsel and is appealing the conviction. Although this is reportedly the first prosecution of its kind in Canada against a victim of sexual assault, what transpired is indicative of pervasive misunderstandings about the application and purpose of publication bans in sexual assault cases.