Between 2006 and 2009 about one third of Ontario Crown offices asked police to conduct background checks on potential jurors by searching confidential police databases. Often the information they obtained was used to inform the prosecution’s jury selections and was not disclosed to defence counsel. In a 2009 report the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner found that the actions of Crown counsel and police had violated thousands of individuals’ privacy rights, and policy changes were subsequently put in place to ensure that all background checks were strictly limited to whether or not an individual was competent, under the law, to serve on a jury.
On March 14th and 15th, 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments stemming from five criminal cases where jury vetting took place prior to trial. The CCLA will appear before the Court to argue that, when determining whether there has been a breach of the Charter, the Court should consider not only the fair trial rights of the accused, but also the impact of government conduct on the privacy rights of thousands of Canadians. State actions contravened government policy, privacy laws, jury list distribution rules, and disclosure obligations. In the CCLA’s view, the repeated violation of thousands of potential jurors’ privacy rights and the use of confidential personal information to inform prosecutorial jury selections constituted an abuse of process and a violation of the Charter.
To read CCLA’s factum before the Supreme Court click here.