Blogger fined $2,500 for breach of publication ban
LOUISE DICKSON / TIMES COLONIST
A Victoria blogger has been fined $2,500 for breaching a court-ordered publication ban on evidence at the preliminary inquiry of a Roman Catholic priest, later convicted of sexually touching a young person.
In April, Victoria provincial court Judge Wayne Smith found Gregory Hartnell failed to comply with a judge’s order prohibiting publication of evidence at Father Phil Jacobs’ preliminary inquiry in November 2011.
At the start of the inquiry, Judge Evan Blake made an order under the Criminal Code directing that the evidence heard not be published or broadcast or transmitted in any way until the accused is either discharged or, if ordered to stand trial, the trial has ended.
Smith found Hartnell, who attended the first day of Jacobs’ hearing, transmitted two postings containing explicit allegations to a website called Sylvia’s Site on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, 2011. The public website covers sex-abuse scandals and betrayals of trust in the Roman Catholic Church in Canada.
At Hartnell’s sentencing hearing Friday, Smith imposed the “significant” fine to send a message to Hartnell and other individuals that orders of the court must be respected and complied with.
“There clearly must be consequences for this serious conviction,” Smith said.
Hartnell was present in court, and knew and understood what Blake was saying, said Smith. He concluded that Hartnell deliberately and intentionally breached the publication ban.
“Whatever his motivation and interest may have been, his personal interest rose above the law and the direction made by the presiding judge at the preliminary inquiry,” said Smith. “His conduct was flagrant. The moral culpability of this accused is very high, in my respectful opinion.”
Smith said that publication bans protect the criminal justice system and ensure the fairness of the trial process by making sure that witnesses and any potential jurors are not affected by anything that takes place prior to the trial.
Jacobs, who was parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker in Saanich from 1997 to 2002, was convicted of touching a young person between the ages of 14 and 18 for a sexual purpose. The 63-year-old received a five-month conditional sentence, followed by two years’ probation.
Jacobs was acquitted of three other charges, including sexual assault and two counts of sexually touching a person under 14.
© Copyright Times Colonist