The province’s attorney general, the chief justice of the Quebec court and several media organizations went before the Quebec Court of Appeal on Monday to demand more information about a trial that took place in complete secrecy.
Before three judges, their lawyers argued court documents must be made public regarding the trial, which has been criticized for being contrary to the fundamental principles of the country’s justice system.
The trial happened on an unknown date and its existence came to light only after a police informant accused in the case went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the conviction. A heavily redacted ruling was released by the court in late February.
Christian Leblanc, a lawyer for the media organizations involved — including CBC and Radio-Canada — told the court that legal proceedings must be conducted in public to ensure confidence in the justice system.
“The very reason why we’re fighting to have publicity and access to the public to those court records is because the very confidence of the public and its legal system depends on the fact that justice is being rendered publicly,” he told reporters on Monday.
“The reason why we’re here is because the only facts [we know] and the only reason why we know this file exists is because of the Court of Appeal. We don’t have any other option but to come to the Court of the Appeal.”
In the 25 years of his career, he said it’s the first time he’s ever witnessed something like this. On paper, the trial never happened.
The case was conducted covertly with the approval of the Crown prosecutors involved, the presiding judge and defence counsel. Where and when the trial took place, along with the names of the defendant and the presiding judge, have been deliberately excluded from the public record. Witnesses were also questioned outside of the court.
“No trace of this trial exists, except in the memory of the individuals involved,” the appeal court wrote in its decision.
Leblanc said that while an informant’s identity needs to be protected, the question is where to draw the line regarding what details must be kept confidential.
The Court of Appeal justices will deliberate before rendering its decision at a later date.