Publication Bans: Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Cases


On the morning of the preliminary hearing, the Crown Attorney asked the victim in the sexual abuse case if she wanted to have a publication ban placed on the trial. Until that moment, she did not know that it was possible to protect her identity and shield her life from unwanted invasion due to harmful publicity.

She had taken other steps to protect herself. She had moved, changed her phone numbers, cut of communication with friends and family members, and she had even changed her job because she feared the backlash she would face for seeking justice against her offender. The expenses, the personal losses, the stress and anxiety she felt about the case might have been prevented had she known that she could protect her privacy with a simple request to the court.

In sexual abuse and sexual assault cases, the victim(s) has the right to request a publication ban.

According to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, “the media is constitutionally entitled to publish information about court cases, but there are exceptions to this right. The court may (and frequently must) impose publication bans to protect the fairness and integrity of the case, the privacy or safety of a victim or witness, or the identity of a child or youth.” Under the Criminal Code of Canada, two sections apply to victims in sexual abuse and sexual assault cases. These sections prohibit the publishing, broadcasting or transmitting of information:

Section 486.4 provides for orders restricting publication of information that could identify a complainant or witness in a sexual offence

Section 486.5 deals with publication bans on information revealing the names of victims, witnesses and justice system participants, where the order is deemed necessary for the proper administration of justice

When a publication ban is applied, it is noted in the court record. All case documentation is marked with “”PUBLICATION BAN” and the number(s) of the related section(s) of the Criminal Code is also listed. In addition, when members of the public or the media request access to the court record, Ministry staff must inform them that the case is subject to a publication ban.

This makes it possible for survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault, adults and children, to protect their identity from harmful publicity. Survivors do not need to incur expenses or take extreme steps because the Criminal Code of Canada clearly states the right and provides the tools to protect their identities.

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Always remember that you may have been victimized by sexual violence, but by searching for help you have started your healing.

Survivors Guide

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