CALGARY — Fears of Internet leaks of evidence banned from publication have led a judge to bar the public from a hearing into sex charges against a prominent psychiatrist.
Judge Bob Wilkins on Tuesday agreed with defence lawyer Alain Hepner that access to Dr. Aubrey Levin's preliminary inquiry should be restricted.
Hepner asked that all but accredited Canadian media be excluded from the proceeding to ensure foreign journalists don't breach a mandatory publication ban.
The lawyer said there are concerns foreign reporters, specifically from Levin's native South Africa, would attend the hearing and post stories on the Internet.
Crown prosecutor Bill Wister shares those concerns.
Wilkins agreed that restricting those who can attend the month-long hearing, which began Tuesday, is necessary in order to preserve Levin's right to a fair trial.
"The social media aspect of this case is enormous," Wilkins said.
He ruled only accredited reporters, members of the law society, and family of the complainants and Levin can attend the hearing.
"The reality is we have no sanctions over anyone that does anything outside of this country," he said.
Wilkins said publication of evidence that is under the mandatory ban "will taint a jury pool ... and in reality taint the possibility of the accused getting a fair trial."
Under the Criminal Code, a publication ban on all evidence at a preliminary inquiry is mandatory if sought by the defence. Its purpose is to ensure evidence isn't published prior to an accused's trial.
The hearing is to determine if there is sufficient evidence for Wilkins to order Levin to stand trail.
Levin, 71, faces 21 charges of sexual assault involving former psychiatric patients.
He was first charged with sexual assault on March 23, 2010 — days after he was suspended by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta — following a complaint from a 36-year-old man who had been a long-term patient.
When that news broke, police set up a tip line and several more of Levin's patients contacted them to say they had also been victimized.
Levin remains out on bail.