The Federal Court says it destroyed audio tapes of hearings in apparent breach of Federal Court Rules. The digital recordings were of courthouse conferences on Blacklock’s claims against Crown agencies for breach of the Copyright Act. Administrators earlier admitted an unidentified person used a courthouse computer to edit Blacklock’s Wikipedia page.
“It would be inappropriate for the Attorney General to comment in the matter as it is before the courts and the Attorney General is a party,” said David Taylor, director of communications for Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Andrew Baumberg, counsel for the Federal Court, earlier said officials kept 100 percent of records. “The general principle is one of retention in perpetuity,” said Baumberg. “The rules provide some exceptions.”
Blacklock’s requested audio recordings of case management teleconferences from January 23, March 6 and May 12 in which lawyers for the Attorney General sought to defer trials on ongoing copyright infringements, and Case Management Judge Mireille Tabib quit the proceedings.
The Court Registry initially said records were not immediately available due to absentee staff and “poor quality” of the audio, then acknowledged tapes had vanished.
“For digital audio recordings made by the Registry, the current practice is to keep all recordings,” said Baumberg. The Court counsel cited Federal Court Rules section 21, “The administrator shall keep all records necessary for documenting the proceedings of the Court.”
The Court Registry declined an interview. Baumberg yesterday confirmed records were deleted. Baumberg said at least one audio tape was “overwritten”.
Also Made Wikipedia Edits
Lawyer Stuart Rennie of Port Coquitlam, B.C., a specialist in records management, said Canadian authorities are typically cautious in preserving records. “In general, Canadians are very reluctant to destroy records,” said Rennie, a member of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators.
“In my experience, there is even reluctance to destroy ‘transitory’ records – an email to arrange a meeting, for instance,” said Rennie. “Each court has its own practices. I do know it is common practice for retention schedules to be kept.”
The Courts Administration Service earlier launched an internal investigation after an unknown person used a courthouse computer to edit Blacklock’s Wikipedia page in 2016. An unidentified staffer made the entry last December 21, within minutes of a Court ruling that ordered Blacklock’s to pay $65,000 in costs in a copyright lawsuit against the Department of Finance.
Daniel Gosselin, chief of the Administration Service, said staff were forbidden from using Court computers or government internet servers to edit Wikipedia pages. “CAS takes the impartiality of the Courts very seriously,” Gosselin earlier wrote.
“Please note the Courts Administration Service has not authorized any of its employees to edit the Blacklock’s Reporter Wikipedia page,” wrote Gosselin; “This is an internal matter and, accordingly, will be dealt with internally.”