Supreme Court rules on police needing warrants to find Internet child porn users

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

OTTAWA - The Harper government and the Supreme Court of Canada are on another potential collision course today in a ruling on a child pornography case.

At issue is whether police need a search warrant to get information from Internet service providers about their subscribers if they are under investigation.

The high court's ruling on the appeal of a Saskatchewan man facing child pornography charges could render part of the federal government's current cyber-bullying bill unconstitutional.

And that could set the stage for more acrimony after the recent showdown in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office lashed out at Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

The unprecedented political dustup came after the Supreme Court disqualified the Tories' nomination of Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon to their ranks.

The Supreme Court will rule on the case of a 19-year-old Saskatchewan man who was charged with possessing and distributing child pornography after police used his Internet address to get further details from his online service provider, all without first obtaining a search warrant.

Lawyers for the man contend that's a Charter violation of his right to be protected from unlawful search and seizure.

If the high court agrees, a portion of the Tories' cyber-bullying bill — which critics say will encourage companies to give police more information about customers' online activities without a warrant — could be scuttled altogether.

In 2007, Matthew David Spencer was charged with downloading child pornography using peer-to-peer file sharing software. The police found the files after Spencer stored them in a shared public folder.

The police approached Shaw Communications without a search warrant, and asked for the information behind Spencer's Internet Protocol address.

Shaw obliged, giving police information that pointed to Spencer's sister.

Police then got a search warrant for the woman's residence and seized her brother's computer, leading to his arrest.

Canada's new privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien, and the Canadian Bar Association have recommended that the current cyber-bullying bill be split into two bills, one for cyber-bullying, and another that focuses on lawful-access provisions.

Civil libertarians also argue that the cyber-bullying bill will undermine Internet privacy, by making it easier for government to snoop on the online activities of otherwise law-abiding Canadians.

But the government contends a new 21st century law is needed to help authorities catch pedophiles and other criminals who are posing threats online.

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, Shaw Communications, Canadian Bar Association

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, OTTAWA, Canada

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments