On March 1, 2015, a seven-week-old Burnaby girl was murdered.
We can’t tell you her name because a judge has issued a publication ban.
We also can’t tell you the name of the man charged with second-degree murder in her death – her own father – because that is also the subject of a publication ban.
Putting aside why there is a need for a judicial publication ban, there is the issue of why this case has only come into public view now – more than three years after it happened.
That’s because the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team never made public the infant’s death or the investigation.
Investigators made that decision because the father had been identified as a potential suspect early in the investigation, according to IHIT, and the killing was determined to be an isolated incident and there was no further risk to the public.
“As such, there was no cause to warn the public, nor a need to elicit public assistance to identify additional suspects or victims,” read an emailed statement from IHIT. “In absence of public safety considerations, we also did not wish to have (the man) labelled as a suspect in a child death at the time of his arrest before any court proceedings.”
The family had also “wished for privacy” at the time, according to IHIT, and investigators did not want to “further victimize” family members.
On the surface, IHIT sounds like it was just trying to be sensitive, which is laudable. But when you look at how other cases are handled, we’re confused about why this case was treated so differently.
Why is it up to police to protect somebody from being “labelled as a suspect in a child death” after being arrested when so many others in murder cases are named at the point of arrest? Why not release the name after the dad was charged?
As for not wanting to “further victimize” the family, it’s a nice sentiment, but why this case? Most other homicide victims are named and those victims have families too.
The case is awful, but it’s in the public interest for the public to be told about serious crimes.
For example, sometimes police agencies don’t tell the public about murder-suicides as a result of domestic violence. Critics point out that doing so only hides the problem from public view, when opening it up to the light can help spur change when people know the true extent of a problem like domestic violence.
Our concern is police arbitrarily deciding when the public should be told about serious crimes happening in our communities.
We don’t believe IHIT is the best judge of what’s in the public interest.