A man granted bail despite being charged with first-degree murder in the death of Toronto Police Constable Jeffrey Northrup in July is applying to a judge to allow uncontested evidence from his bail hearing to be reported.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Jill Copeland granted bail to Umar Zameer, an accountant, two weeks ago, a rare decision in a case involving an alleged homicide of a police officer. But Justice Copeland’s reasons for doing so cannot be reported. They are covered by a publication ban that is mandatory under federal law when requested by the defence, in part to protect trial fairness. And Mr. Zameer, who is accused of using his vehicle to intentionally run down and kill Constable Northrup in the City Hall parking garage, initially requested the ban.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown publicly criticized Justice Copeland’s decision to grant bail on Twitter and in front of reporters, leading to public vilification of Mr. Zameer, says the application, filed in Ontario Superior Court late on Wednesday.
Mr. Ford, who has more than 500,000 Twitter followers, tweeted that the “justice system needs to get its act together and start putting victims and their families ahead of criminals.”
Nader Hasan, a lawyer for Mr. Zameer, said in an e-mail that the defence is asking Justice Copeland to lift the publication ban on the parts of the reasons that primarily describe non-controversial and undisputed evidence.
“That evidence has never been reported to the public,” he said. “Its publication will assist in combatting the misinformation and prejudicial innuendo that has circulated in the media since Mr. Zameer’s arrest.”
Mr. Zameer has been declared responsible for a heinous crime, and labeled a terrorist by some individuals on social media, the application said. “His release has provoked outrage among a public misinformed about the basic facts of the case.”
The application recognizes that it is an unusual request, acknowledging that the Criminal Code section that provides for the mandatory ban does not specify that the ban can be lifted at the request of the accused. But the application says nothing in that section bars the court from using its inherent power to change the terms of the publication ban.
“Maintaining the publication ban in its entirety will have the opposite effect to its intended purpose,” the application said.
The application will be heard on Nov. 22. The Ontario Attorney-General’s Ministry declined to comment while the case is before the courts.
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