A New Brunswick judge has lifted a publication ban on court documents in the Fredericton shooting case that reveal some details of how the deadly attack unfolded.
Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the Aug. 10 shooting deaths of Bobbie Lee Wright and Donnie Robichaud, and Constable Robb Costello and Constable Sara Burns of the Fredericton Police.
On Monday, hours after the media published details of the case laid out in court documents – including the police response, and injuries sustained by the alleged shooter – prosecutor Cameron Gunn sought a retroactive publication ban from the province’s Court of Queen’s Bench, forcing news outlets to remove stories they had already published.
Several media organizations challenged the ban in court.
Mr. Gunn, the executive director of prosecutions with the Public Prosecution Services of New Brunswick, said the crown was willing for the ban to be replaced with a more narrow one that blocked only the publication of names in the court documents (including those of the responding police officers).
The inclusion of such details in the court filings was an oversight, RCMP Staff Sgt. Jean-Marc Paré said in a sworn affidavit – arguing that publication of the information could “contaminate” the investigation.
But David Coles, a lawyer representing media companies including The Globe and Mail, the CBC, Postmedia and Brunswick News, argued there was no basis for such a ban. The names would be in the public domain during the trial, he said – and reporters could learn them from other sources.
On Friday, after hearing the arguments, Justice Judy Clendening, who had granted the ban initially, reversed her position.
“The evidence falls short of establishing that a ban should be granted, even in the narrow situation of the protection of the privacy of the individuals, and I do not find that the salutary effects of granting the publication ban strongly outweigh the deleterious impacts,” the judge said.
It was a sound decision, Mr. Coles said in an interview on Friday. There is a presumption that the courts are open and transparent, and overturning that requires compelling evidence.
Mr. Coles said he believes publication ban applications are becoming more frequent, and the circumstances in which they are sought are becoming more broad. “The challenge,” he said, "is that it’s often one or more media outlets that are left to take up the role of fighting these things, to keep the justice system open.”
Of particular frustration in this case, he said, is the fact that the individuals whose names the crown was looking to protect had not even been consulted.
Police have said previously that Ms. Wright and Mr. Robichaud were shot first, in the parking lot outside Mr. Robichaud’s apartment building. The two officers were shot when they responded, just after 7:20 a.m.
The Crown information sheet says a third officer, Sergeant Jason Forward, arrived moments after them.
“Sgt. Forward then heard a couple more gunshots so he proceeded into 237 Brookside Drive in back of building C,” the document states. “Once there, he noticed Constables Costello and Burns laying on the ground not moving. He also noticed another male on the ground and not moving, beside Const. Costello.”
A male witness told Sgt. Forward that shots were coming from the top floor of the apartment building. He and another officer entered the building, set up containment and confirmed which unit the alleged shooter was in.
Sgt. Forward later learned that another officer, described in the documents as Const. Arbeau, had engaged the shooter after he saw him point his long gun at him from the window.
“Const. Arbeau believed he had hit the shooter in the torso,” the document says. “A little while later members of [Fredericton Police Force emergency response team] entered the apartment and took the lone occupant and shooter into custody. The suspect had been shot in the abdomen.”
Mr. Raymond is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 27.
A regimental funeral will be held in Fredericton on Saturday for the two police officers.
With a report from The Canadian Press