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Secrecy in our Justice System

by tracy mclaughlin, about 3 years ago

I am a freelance courts/crime and legal issues writer and photographer.

After writing about issues arising out of our Canadian justice system for the past 20 years, I have come to realize how crucial it is to have writers in our courts system.

However newspapers have limited funds and many editors can no longer afford placing their writers in the courts. This poses the danger that no one is watching what goes on in our courts. In many cases its the 'little man' who is convicted while often 'important people' such as politicians, the rich and police officers get away with crimes. Many of my stories are about these questionable court proceedings.

In my case, as a freelancer I have the time (albeit often unpaid time) to spend the hours and days and months I need in the courts without an editor demanding I rush off to the latest car accident. The more we journalists keep an eye on what is going on in our Canadian courts, the better chance of honest in our courts. There is no place in Canada for secrecy in our courts - but it does happen.

As a freelance journalist I have the freedom to fight my own legal battles with judges and lawyers who erroneously believe that court exhibits should not be made available to journalists or to the public. This in the face of repeated rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Court of Appeal that court exhibits are public and must be made available to journalists in a timely manner. As a freelancer I can take the time to research our media rights and the freedom to argue my own case in court before a judge.

And we must not forget the victims of crimes. Another thing a freelance writer often has more time to do is meet with victims of atrocious crimes and tell their poignant stories - stories that touch all Canadians in so many ways.

While salaried writers also write these stories, often newspapers can not afford to give them the time they need.

But freelance writers do pay a price. Many unpaid hours, no benefits, no holidays, no sick leave. It is a struggle. Why do we do it? We do it because we love what we do and we care.

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