Xtra‘s request for access to a report on hate crimes has been denied by BC’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
The report, entitled “Expert Report on Homophobic Violence,” was prepared by gay criminologist Doug Janoff for the trial of Michael Kandola.
Kandola pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm on March 31, 2010, for sucker-punching Jordan Smith as he walked hand in hand on Davie St with another man. BC Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves found the attack was motivated by hate and sentenced Kandola to 17 months in prison.
Xtra filed a request to see Janoff’s report with the provincial Criminal Justice Branch on April 26, 2010. That initial request was denied on June 3, 2010. The branch said the report was not used or mentioned in court and, therefore, did not become part of the public record.
In appealing the denial on June 8, 2010, Xtra argued that public funds, including those of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered taxpayers, were used in commissioning the report by a public body. Xtra also pointed to the precedent set by Groves’ ruling to underline the importance of making the document public. “The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community has long felt itself under-represented in the court process in such offences. Such a document may help open that process to that community and instill greater faith in the justice system,” Xtra told the branch.
Janoff is the author of In Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada and is considered a leading expert in the hate-crime field. Janoff could not release the report as he had been commissioned to create it.
“We believe his report will further public understanding of the justice system and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community’s faith in that system,” Xtra said in the appeal.
The branch cited prosecutorial discretion in the use of the report as reason to deny the request for access.
Xtra appealed the case as far as the commissioner’s office, which upheld the denial, noting that the Crown did consider the report in preparation for sentencing.
At sentencing, Crown prosecutor Dasein Nearing presented Groves with a number of test factors to determine if Kandola’s attack was motivated by hate.
That same test was later brought up as part of the hate-crime conviction of Shawn Woodward, whose March 13, 2009, punch left Ritchie Dowrey with serious brain injuries, from which he is still struggling to recover.