September 19, 2013 9:57 am
Updated: September 21, 2013 10:15 am

Sensitive Facebook posts may carry legal consequences


SASKATOON – Social media was abuzz Monday with talk of a 13-year-old Warman boy, accused of the attempted murder of one of his classmates.

His identity, as well as the victim’s, are subject to a publication ban.

Despite this, a number of Facebook posts reportedly dropped hints and some went as far as naming the parties involved.

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“If the authorities could trace the internet traffic back to an individual, that person could be charged and would be facing a criminal charge under the Youth Criminal Justice Act,” said Sanjeev Anand, dean at the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan.

According to Anand, beyond publication bans is the issue of tainting evidence, since friends, family and classmates could be called upon to testify.

“If there’s a lot of buzz and conversation about what occurred, that raises the prospect of collusion and that could seriously hinder the administration of justice, as it pertains to this particular case,” said Anand.

Social media and law enforcement advisor Tim Burrows, sees sites like Facebook and Twitter as an opportunity for dialogue between the public and police.

“In terms of an investigation source, the information is out there. We would be, as far as I’m concerned, negligent if we didn’t look at the information that’s presented through social media,” said Burrows.

Burrows has spent the last 23 years as a police officer in southern Ontario and said while there are several positives when it comes to social media, officers still need to do their due diligence before latching onto a post as concrete evidence.

“The information there, you have to recognize it and you have to follow through. Source it, get rid of or hold onto the best of the information – the stuff you can actually prove valid.”

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