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November 9, 1999
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Media to fight Homolka file court ban

Charter protects public's right to know details, lawyer says

By Michelle Shephard
Toronto Star Crime Reporter

The publication ban placed on court documents concerning Karla Homolka restricts the public's right to know how the prison system has dealt with her, The Star and other media outlets will claim in a court challenge.

After the contents of Homolka's prison record and her handwritten application for a temporary release were published in The Star last week, the federal court issued a publication ban on the 317 pages of documents contained in the file.

``I think the order is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights in the guarantee of freedom of speech,'' said Montreal lawyer Mark Bantey, retained on behalf of The Star, The Toronto Sun and Southam News.

``There's also a jurisdictional issue as to whether the official who ordered (the publication ban) has the jurisdiction to do so,'' Bantey said.

The ban was ordered by prothonotary Richard Morneau after an internal court memorandum highlighted the fact that the file contained several psychological assessments of Homolka.

Bantey hopes his motion to quash the publication order will be filed in court next week.

Homolka has been in custody for six years for her part in the slayings of two Ontario teenagers and her role in the drugging, rape and death of her youngest sister, Tammy.

She received a 12-year sentence for manslaughter after agreeing to testify at the trial of her former husband, Paul Bernardo.

Bernardo is currently serving a life sentence for raping and murdering 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, 15.

In September, Homolka launched a court challenge of her warden's decision to deny her the opportunity for escorted releases.

Homolka's Montreal-based lawyer, Pascal Lescarbeau, said he had not asked for the publication ban on his client's documents.

But Homolka herself, in an affidavit filed Friday and not guarded under the publication ban, said the media plays a part in all decisions concerning her future.

Homolka claims publicity affects decisions on her future

``I feel that all decisions concerning me are more motivated by the possible reaction of the media instead of being focused on my rehabilitation or even, at a greater extent, the protection of society,'' she said.

Homolka began her sentence at the Kingston Prison for Women but moved to Montreal's Joliette prison - dubbed by critics as ``Club Fed'' - in 1997.

After serving two-thirds of her sentence, in July, 2001, she will be eligible for release.

The only way she can be held for the full 12 years is if prison officials recommend this to Corrections Canada, believing she will be a serious threat to society.

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