Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ontario Privacy Commissioner: Crown Attorneys Must Stop Collecting Private Info on Prospective Jurors

Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, yesterday criticized Crown attorneys for collecting personal information of potential jurors beyond what is necessary under the Juries Act and Criminal Code.

Dr. Cavoukian announced her decision in the wake of a major investigation into whether the privacy rights of prospective jurors were breached when the police conducted sometimes extensive background checks on behalf of the Crown.

According to the investigation, one third, or 18 of the 55 Crown attorney offices in Ontario, had received background information about prospective jurors since March 31, 2006.

Under the Juries Act and Criminal Code, an individual is ineligible to serve as a juror if they have been convicted of an indictable offence for which they have not received a pardon. The Criminal Code also allows a juror to be successfully challenged for cause by the Crown and defence counsel if they have been convicted of an offence for which a term of imprisonment exceeding 12 months has been given. The investigation found that practices had developed across Ontario that, in some cases, went far beyond these limits.

Dr. Cavoukian has made a series of recommendations:

"Based on the findings of the investigation, the Commissioner is ordering Crown attorneys to cease collecting any personal information of potential jurors beyond that which is permitted under the Juries Act and the Criminal Code, relevant to criminal conviction eligibility. Further, the Commissioner is recommending a fundamental shift in the way that prospective jurors are screened in Ontario. Proposing a complete overhaul of the existing system, the Commissioner has recommended that MAG [Attorney General], through its Provincial Jury Centre (PJC), be the only central body to screen jurors who are ineligible for jury duty, based on criminal conviction. As the single entity already in receipt of the names and personal information of all prospective jurors, the PJC is the obvious candidate to perform this role. Operating from a single location in London, Ontario, the PJC is also in an ideal position to implement strict privacy and security measures that can be strongly enforced, thereby providing a consistently high degree of protection for personal information." [from the press release]
Cavoukian adds that where Crown attorneys do obtain criminal conviction information relating to prospective jurors, they should share this information with defence counsel.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:42 pm

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