Journalists rally to support local OPP-arrested reporters

If the drift of Canada towards a police state has not yet affected you directly, you would do well to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, writing in Germany before his arrest in the 1930s: "The Nazis came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant, so I didn't speak up....by that time there was nobody left to speak up for anyone."

Journalists rally to support local OPP-arrested reporters

Postby Thomas » Mon Jun 25, 2018 3:30 pm

Journalists nationwide rally to support local OPP-arrested reporters

“It's a problem for expression, it's a problem for journalism, it's a problem for the public interest and the public's right to know,” said CAJ President Karyn Pugliese.

The criminal charges against two local small-town journalists who were arrested while covering a car crash along Lake Erie represent “a stunning and unacceptable assault on press freedom,” says Canada’s largest professional organization of journalists.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) on Monday condemned the Ontario Provincial Police for charging Aylmer Express publisher John Hueston, 67, and his son, reporter/editor Brett Hueston, 33, with obstructing a police officer last summer.

“It’s a problem for expression, it’s a problem for journalism, it’s a problem for the public interest and the public’s right to know,” said CAJ president Karyn Pugliese.

“There was an investigation going on. It’s in the public interest to know what’s going on.”

Last June, the pair was handcuffed and hauled away, then held for four hours by police. Their run-in with officers occurred after they drove down a blocked-off road, Springfield Line, as police investigated after a car had plunged into Lake Erie.

You have two reporters show up. All the police had to say was stand there and take your pictures, they would have taken their pictures, the public would have been informed and democracy would have been served. CAJ President Karyn Pugliese

This Wednesday, the Huestons go to trial in St. Thomas. Both are also charged under the Provincial Offences Act with trespassing and Brett Hueston is charged with driving on a closed road.

Brett Hueston said the CAJ support has given them confidence as they go into the trial. Speaking to them, he said, was “reassuring.”

Other press freedom groups have reached out to them and the majority of comments from the public have been supportive and sympathetic, he said. One woman called them and cried on the phone about the “heavy-handed” treatment she experienced from police, the younger Hueston said.

Other people who work in emergency services have contacted them to say they are “dumbfounded that (the OPP) are carrying this right to trial,” he added.

Brett Hueston said the Springfield Line day still puzzles him. His newspaper covers many car crashes and there is an understanding at each scene that “we do our job, you do yours.”

The Huestons had gone to the crash scene after there were rumours of a police chase before the car went off the cliff. The case was later declared a suicide and Ontario’s police watchdog cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing.

But the Huestons didn’t know any details when they went to take photos and get more information.

The Huestons arrived near the scene and drove around a “road closed” sign. Their hope was to take some photos and ask the lone homeowner on the dead-end road if they had seen what happened.

Brett Hueston said they were at least 50 metres from the investigation. They were confronted by one police officer, then a supervisor who told them they couldn’t be there. They discussed where they could physically stand and after a brief exchange they were arrested.

Brett Hueston said the police acted as if the reporters knew what was going on. While the community was rife with rumour, especially through social media, “nothing was known. That’s why the newspaper is there — just because of problems like Facebook, speculation and rumour.”

Both were handcuffed and put in the rear of separate police cars before being taken to the Elgin OPP detachment. They were fingerprinted, held in cells and charged.

Some of the officers at the scene were familiar to the journalists. “It was just one more thing that made us think they’re not going to go through with this,” Brett Hueston said.

Police also took the Huestons’ cameras. They went out and bought new cameras the next day – something they could afford because the Aylmer Express is part of a large commercial printing operation. Police contacted the Huestons in March — nine months after their arrests — to say the cameras could now be returned to them.

Any other small newspaper without the resources might have settled the case, he said, “even though you’ve got to fight it on principle.

“We’re only interested in one result. I don’t know what I would do differently.”

Pugliese, president of the national journalists’ group, agreed.

“You have two reporters show up. All the police had to say was stand there and take your pictures, they would have taken their pictures, the public would have been informed and democracy would have been served,” she said.

The response by the police was “appalling” especially given that John Hueston has had some heart issues, Pugliese added: “The fact the police instead decided to take a 67-year-old man with a pacemaker, cuff him and charge him with doing his job, that’s a problem.”

The association is coming out with its condemnation of the OPP in advance of the trial because “there’s still a chance for the police to do the right thing and drop the charges,” Pugliese said. “That would be the ideal outcome right now.”

Last week, the Elgin OPP said it would not be commenting on the case while it was still before the courts.

But the Huestons’ defence lawyer, Gordon Cudmore, said the CAJ’s help is welcomed.

“I think it shows we’re on the right track,” he said.

Their position at trial will be that the Huestons weren’t obstructing the police. Cudmore said it’s “even more critical” to note that his clients were at the scene because “they were doing their job.”

“They didn’t interfere with the police, the police interfered with them,” Cudmore said.

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Journalist group condemns charges against father-son newspap

Postby Thomas » Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:07 pm

Journalist group condemns charges against father-son newspaper duo

'I'm still shocked' says father after pair charged while covering fatal crash

Two journalists go on trial in St. Thomas, Ont., today in a case that will be watched closely by journalists across the country.

John Hueston, 67, the publisher of the Aylmer Express, and his son Brett, 33, the paper's editor, were charged by the OPP as they were gathering information about a car that drove off a cliff into Lake Erie near Port Bruce on June 23, 2017.

The next day, the Special Investigations Unit was called in to determine if an OPP vehicle had been in pursuit of the car that crashed. The death of the driver was ultimately determined to be a suicide.

That same day, John Hueston and his son went to interview the people who lived in a house at the end of Springfield Road, near the cliff, to see whether they had observed a police chase.

To get to the scene, they drove past a road-closed sign, which Hueston said was standard procedure for reporters in the area.

Police shout: 'You can't be here'

"We parked our car, making sure it wasn't going to impede anybody, got out and thought 'We might as well get a couple photographs of the overall scene,' which we did," said Hueston. At this point, he said, they were at least 50 metres away from any police cars.

"As I was heading back towards the driveway to this home, Brett said 'somebody's coming.'"

It was a plainclothes police officer and "She was not happy. I think she shouted at us: 'You can't be here.'"

When Hueston asked for her identification, he said she offered to send over her superior. When the commanding officer arrived, a similar exchange occurred.

"He said 'You guys can't be here, you got to go.' And I said: 'OK, if we got to go, where can we go?'"

​Shortly after, the men were handcuffed and taken to the Elgin OPP detachment where they were held for several hours.

They were each charged with criminal obstruction of a peace officer.

Journalists stunned

"I couldn't believe it, because it was such a benign situation," said Hueston. "That was not what I would consider an active crime scene, even if the SIU was there investigating."

"We were shocked. I'm still shocked ... This is crazy that we're [facing] criminal charges. I mean, criminal charges, it's a big deal. It's a life-changing conviction."

Hueston said he and Brett were simply doing their jobs.

"We didn't do anything that could be construed as obstruction … I don't think I trespassed. And going around the (road-closed) sign, that's customary."

Asked what this case says about the state of media freedom in Canada, Hueston replied:

"It says the police don't give a damn about it, and frankly, my guess is that they would prefer that we would be prohibited from sites. That's the impression I get from some [police officers]."

The charges have been condemned by the Canadian Association of Journalists.

"The OPP's decision to charge a father and son team who run a community newspaper is a stunning and unacceptable assault on press freedom and the public's right to know," said CAJ president Karyn Pugliese.

"We urge the OPP to immediately withdraw all charges against the journalists."

The OPP has declined to comment on the case while it's before the courts, but media officer Const. Adam Crewdson issued a response via email:

"The OPP strives for a good working relationship with our media partners. The media-police relationship is very important to the OPP as they help us inform the public on policing matters, public safety concerns, traffic initiatives and much more."

Hueston and his son are to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in St. Thomas Wednesday morning. The trial is expected to last one day.

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Surprise disclosure delays journalists' trial

Postby Thomas » Thu Jun 28, 2018 2:02 am

ST. THOMAS – For a whole year, police obstruction charges have hung like a Lake Erie storm cloud over the Aylmer Express.

And, for a whole year, the OPP and the Elgin County Crown attorney had time to disclose to the defence the materials on which they were relying in their case against the small-town newspaper’s publisher John Hueston, 67, and his son, reporter and editor Brett Hueston, 33, related to what the Crown says happened between the Huestons and the OPP along Springfield Line last June.

So, there was both shock and frustration when the Crown produced new disclosure, minutes before the Huestons’ Ontario Court of Justice trial was supposed to start, and it wasn’t something minor.

The investigating officer’s notes hadn’t been handed over to the defence.

And, assistant Crown attorney Celia Jutras told Justice Glen Donald there’s still more to come, including notes from a fire chief and a police media relations officer.

“I’m not a happy camper today,” defence lawyer Gordon Cudmore said to Donald in the packed courtroom before agreeing to adjourning the case to Aug. 15.

Neither were the Huestons.

“It’s been eating the family up. It’s been eating the business up. It’s a problem in front of us,” said John Hueston.

“We’re paying on this everyday and now we’ve got to go through until August.”

It’s still a head-scratcher how such critical materials couldn’t make it to the defence before the trial, especially in light of the pending constitutional argument over press freedom and the support of the Huestons by journalism organizations across the country.

The Huestons were charged June 24, 2017, after what should have been routine reportage of a police investigation. The pair drove out to the Lake Erie shoreline after the Elgin OPP sent out a press release about a car that had gone off the cliff at the end of road east of Port Bruce.

There were rumours of a police pursuit and the Huestons went to the area primarily to interview the only homeowner on the road and to take photos.

There was a ‘road closed’ sign at the mouth of the road that didn’t completely cover the opening, but no OPP officer posted there. The Huestons went around the sign and headed down the road, parking no closer than 50 metres from the crime scene, got out of their car and took photos, they said.

An officer approached them, there was a discussion about where they could stand and after some discussion, the Huestons said they wanted to see the officer’s supervisor. After another discussion, the supervisor ordered they be arrested.

They were placed in separate cruisers in handcuffs – even after knowing John Hueston wears a pacemaker – before they were taken to the Elgin OPP detachment, held for three hours and charged.

Later, they found out the car, with a body inside, was being removed from the water when they had arrived. It was determined the incident was a suicide and the Special Investigations Unit cleared an officer of any wrongdoing.

Cudmore is planning a constitutional argument as part of the trial. “Freedom of the press is a very live issue,” Cudmore told Donald.

With kindness, once court was over, Cudmore said the Crown’s surprise disclosure of the investigating officer’s notes was “very unusual” and “a bureaucratic mess-up.”

“It’s very unusual,” said Cudmore particularly on what seems to be a straight-forward case and ironically a trial where the main issue is the public’s right to know and understand what’s going on.

“The public has the right for the free press to be at various scenes,” he said. “The press does not have a right to obstruct, but they sure have a right to be there and to report and to keep the public informed of what is going on and the police should be transparent. That’s the foundation of a democracy.”

“We say and maintain throughout there was no obstruction whatsoever, that they were just there doing their jobs as part of a free press.”

Brett Hueston said the adjournment is “just highly disappointing. I wanted this over today. I don’t want to live with this through the summer.

“We’ve got a lot of other things we do for the business, the community and our family. This is not what we need,” he said.

His worry goes beyond their interaction with the OPP, but to other cases they’ve heard of in the country. They are fortunate, he said, because their commercial printing operation has helped them afford a defence.

“It’s really troubling and that’s what keeps me up at night, not what we did, because we didn’t do anything wrong, but what’s happening to people like us might work for smaller places that can’t afford to fight these cases in court. “

“We have to fight this on principle, if nothing else.”

John Hueston said he has been humbled by the support both locally and across the country.

“There really has been something that’s been positive out of this and I will never forget the words of support we’ve had. It’s been great.”

Both the Huestons said they have been to crime scenes with the same “road closed” sign since last June with no issues, compared to what happened when they were charged.

“It was adversarial…. It was very aggressive, when we had no idea,” John Hueston said.

Their cameras were confiscated by the police and weren’t made available to them for nine months. The two photos John Hueston was able to get, he said, “very poor shots …a strip of cliff bank that is far in the distance and I just took it as a matter of record.”

As for the new disclosure of police notes, “I would have figured that that would have been the very first thing that would have been made available,” he said.

At the brief hearing, the Crown said it would be calling three police witnesses at that trial. What Cudmore said he wants are acquittals and recognition of the fundamental rights of the press in democracy.

“These weren’t curious tourists who wanted to see the accident scene on the 401, these were legitimate reporters doing their job,” he said.

“And I think that has to be recognized and acknowledged in this society, otherwise we’re toast.”

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Surprise disclosure delays journalists' trial on police obst

Postby Thomas » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:09 pm

Surprise disclosure delays journalists' trial on police obstruction charges

ST. THOMAS – For a whole year, police obstruction charges have hung like a Lake Erie storm cloud over the Aylmer Express.

And, for a whole year, the OPP and the Elgin County Crown attorney had time to disclose to the defence the materials on which they were relying in their case against the small-town newspaper’s publisher John Hueston, 67, and his son, reporter and editor Brett Hueston, 33, related to what the Crown says happened between the Huestons and the OPP along Springfield Line last June.

So, there was both shock and frustration Wednesday when the Crown produced new disclosure, minutes before the Huestons’ Ontario Court of Justice trial was supposed to start, and it wasn’t something minor.

The investigating officer’s notes hadn’t been handed over to the defence.

And, assistant Crown attorney Celia Jutras told Justice Glen Donald there’s still more to come, including notes from a fire chief and a police media relations officer.

“I’m not a happy camper today,” defence lawyer Gordon Cudmore said to Donald in the packed courtroom before agreeing to adjourn the case to Aug. 15.

Neither were the Huestons.

“It’s been eating the family up. It’s been eating the business up. It’s a problem in front of us,” said John Hueston.

“We’re paying on this everyday and now we’ve got to go through until August.”

It’s still a head-scratcher how such critical materials couldn’t make it to the defence before the trial, especially in light of the pending constitutional argument over press freedom and the support of the Huestons by journalism organizations across the country.

The Huestons were charged June 24, 2017, after what should have been routine reportage of a police investigation. The pair drove out to the Lake Erie shoreline after the Elgin OPP sent out a press release about a car that had gone off the cliff at the end of the road east of Port Bruce.

There were rumours of a police pursuit and the Huestons went to the area primarily to interview the only homeowner on the road and to take photos.

There was a ‘road closed’ sign at the mouth of the road that didn’t completely cover the opening, but no OPP officer was posted there. The Huestons went around the sign and headed down the road, parking no closer than 50 metres from the crime scene, got out of their car and took photos, they said.

An officer approached them, there was a discussion about where they could stand and after some to-and-fro, the Huestons said they wanted to see the officer’s supervisor. After another discussion, the supervisor ordered they be arrested.

They were placed in separate cruisers in handcuffs – even after knowing John Hueston wears a pacemaker — before they were taken to the Elgin OPP detachment, held for three hours and charged.

Later, they found out the off-the-cliff car, with a body inside, was being removed from the water when they had arrived. It was determined the incident was a suicide and Ontario’s police watchdog cleared an officer of any wrongdoing.

Cudmore is planning a constitutional argument as part of the trial. “Freedom of the press is a very live issue,” Cudmore told Donald.

With kindness, once court was over, Cudmore said the Crown’s surprise disclosure of the investigating officer’s notes was “very unusual” and “a bureaucratic mess-up.”

“It’s very unusual,” Cudmore said, particularly on what seems to be a straight-forward case — and ironically a trial where the main issue is the public’s right to know and understand what’s going on.

“The public has the right for the free press to be at various scenes,” he said. “The press does not have a right to obstruct, but they sure have a right to be there and to report and to keep the public informed of what is going on and the police should be transparent. That’s the foundation of a democracy.

“We say and maintain throughout there was no obstruction whatsoever, that they were just there doing their jobs as part of a free press.”

Brett Hueston said the adjournment is “just highly disappointing. I wanted this over today. I don’t want to live with this through the summer.

“We’ve got a lot of other things we do for the business, the community and our family. This is not what we need,” he said.

His worry goes beyond their interaction with the OPP, but to other cases they’ve heard of in the country. They are fortunate, he said, because their commercial printing operation has helped them afford a defence.

“It’s really troubling and that’s what keeps me up at night, not what we did, because we didn’t do anything wrong, but what’s happening to people like us who might work for smaller places that can’t afford to fight these cases in court.

“We have to fight this on principle, if nothing else.”

John Hueston said he has been humbled by the support both locally and across the country.

“There really has been something that’s been positive out of this and I will never forget the words of support we’ve had. It’s been great.”

Both the Huestons said they have been to crime scenes with the same “road closed” sign since last June with no issues, compared to what happened when they were charged.

“It was adversarial. . . . It was very aggressive, when we had no idea,” John Hueston said.

Their cameras were confiscated by the police and weren’t made available to them for nine months. The two photos John Hueston was able to get, he said, “very poor shots . . . a strip of cliff bank that is far in the distance and I just took it as a matter of record.”

As for the new disclosure of police notes, “I would have figured that that would have been the very first thing that would have been made available,” he said.

At the brief hearing, the Crown said it would be calling three police witnesses at the trial. What Cudmore said he wants are acquittals and recognition of the fundamental rights of the press in democracy.

“These weren’t curious tourists who wanted to see the accident scene on the 401, these were legitimate reporters doing their job,” he said.

“And I think that has to be recognized and acknowledged in this society, otherwise we’re toast.”

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Father and son journalists disappointed by unexpected delay

Postby Thomas » Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:45 am

Father and son journalists disappointed by unexpected delay in their trial

New information submitted by the Crown forced an adjournment in the case

One of two Aylmer journalists charged with obstructing police following a dramatic car crash near Port Bruce, Ontario a year ago says he and his father — the co-accused — are "extremely disappointed" that their case has been delayed.

Brett Hueston, the editor of the Aylmer Express, said he and his father, John Hueston, the paper's publisher, were ready to go to trial Wednesday when the Crown submitted new information at the last minute.

"It really puts us in limbo for the next two months. It's disappointing above all else," said Brett Hueston.

The Crown said the new information presented to the court includes notes from the investigating officer in the case, and that there is more to come, including notes from a fire chief and a police media spokesperson.

The case was adjourned until August 15 to give the defence time to review the information.

Hueston said it's disturbing that the new information was entered suddenly considering the Crown had many months to prepare its case.

"We don't know for a fact why, but it seems strange that after a year of time to prepare for this that these things are coming forward now, certainly after a few days of this (case) being in the media."

Hueston said he and his father aren't concerned about how to defend against the new submission.

"My story and my father's (story) is not going to change. We haven't done anything wrong. We're going to tell the same thing. We obviously need to go over this new information and make sure there isn't something that we find is inaccurate or conflicts."

The Huestons' lawyer, Gordon Cudmore, has said he is planning to use a constitutional argument as part of the defence. He argues the case is all about freedom of the press. He maintains the Huestons were just doing their job when they were arrested by police.

The father and son journalists were charged by the OPP as they were trying to take photos after a car drove off a cliff into Lake Erie near Port Bruce on June 23, 2017.

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit was brought in to determine if an OPP vehicle had been in pursuit of the car that crashed. The death of the driver was later determined to be a suicide.

The Huestons said they were arrested after they challenged two police officers who said they could be nowhere near the crash scene.

They said they were handcuffed and taken to the Elgin OPP detachment where they were detained for several hours.

Each was charged with criminal obstruction of a peace officer.

The charges have been condemned by the Canadian Association of Journalists as "an unacceptable assault on press freedom and the public's right to know."

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Father and son journalists disappointed by unexpected delay

Postby Thomas » Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:45 am

Father and son journalists disappointed by unexpected delay in their trial

New information submitted by the Crown forced an adjournment in the case

One of two Aylmer journalists charged with obstructing police following a dramatic car crash near Port Bruce, Ontario a year ago says he and his father — the co-accused — are "extremely disappointed" that their case has been delayed.

Brett Hueston, the editor of the Aylmer Express, said he and his father, John Hueston, the paper's publisher, were ready to go to trial Wednesday when the Crown submitted new information at the last minute.

"It really puts us in limbo for the next two months. It's disappointing above all else," said Brett Hueston.

The Crown said the new information presented to the court includes notes from the investigating officer in the case, and that there is more to come, including notes from a fire chief and a police media spokesperson.

The case was adjourned until August 15 to give the defence time to review the information.

Hueston said it's disturbing that the new information was entered suddenly considering the Crown had many months to prepare its case.

"We don't know for a fact why, but it seems strange that after a year of time to prepare for this that these things are coming forward now, certainly after a few days of this (case) being in the media."

Hueston said he and his father aren't concerned about how to defend against the new submission.

"My story and my father's (story) is not going to change. We haven't done anything wrong. We're going to tell the same thing. We obviously need to go over this new information and make sure there isn't something that we find is inaccurate or conflicts."

The Huestons' lawyer, Gordon Cudmore, has said he is planning to use a constitutional argument as part of the defence. He argues the case is all about freedom of the press. He maintains the Huestons were just doing their job when they were arrested by police.

The father and son journalists were charged by the OPP as they were trying to take photos after a car drove off a cliff into Lake Erie near Port Bruce on June 23, 2017.

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit was brought in to determine if an OPP vehicle had been in pursuit of the car that crashed. The death of the driver was later determined to be a suicide.

The Huestons said they were arrested after they challenged two police officers who said they could be nowhere near the crash scene.

They said they were handcuffed and taken to the Elgin OPP detachment where they were detained for several hours.

Each was charged with criminal obstruction of a peace officer.

The charges have been condemned by the Canadian Association of Journalists as "an unacceptable assault on press freedom and the public's right to know."

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Defence declines to present evidence in local journalists' t

Postby Thomas » Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:16 am

ST. THOMAS – The next phase of a courtroom debate over freedom of the press will wait until next week.

After a brief court appearance Monday in the Ontario Court of Justice, the trial of Aylmer Express publisher John Hueston, 67, and his son, the newspaper’s editor Brett Hueston, 33, was adjourned until Sept. 19 for argument.

The defence has opted not to call evidence at the trial that is examining what happened between the Huestons, who operate the paper east of St. Thomas, and the Elgin County OPP on June 24, 2017 when they encountered each other at the end of Springfield Road at Nova Scotia Line not far from Port Bruce.

The Huestons, who have pleaded not guilty to obstructing a peace officer and trespassing, had gone to the area to check out what happened when a car drove over a cliff into Lake Erie the day before, specifically to check reports that there had been a police pursuit.

There had been reports the driver had thrown something out the window of his car before driving into the lake.

The Special Investigations Unit, the provincial watchdog that investigates the police, already had stepped in and facts about what happened were sketchy.

The Huestons drove around a road-closed sign and headed toward the lake, just as the police and emergency workers were about to pull the car out of the water with the deceased still inside.

Their arrival at the edge of a bean field some metres from the tense crime scene, led to a heated exchange with police about showing up at the scene, then arrests and detention at the detachment for several hours.

Both assistant Crown attorney Celia Jutras and defence lawyer Gordon Cudmore will be giving Justice Glen Donald written submissions early next week, before their oral arguments.

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Judge to rule on Aylmer press freedom case in October

Postby Thomas » Mon Sep 24, 2018 5:29 am

ST. THOMAS – 2 (b) or not 2 (b) – that is the question.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms section enshrining freedom of the press as a fundamental right was central in both the defence and Crown arguments at the trial Wednesday of two Aylmer journalists accused of obstructing justice.

At stake, said their defence lawyer, is the protection of that right, especially in light of recent attacks worldwide on press freedom. Gordon Cudmore said he didn’t want Brett and John Hueston to be found not guilty, but wants “exoneration.”

The Crown argued public safety and police investigations should trump press freedom.

The conclusion of the case against Aylmer Express editor Brett Hueston, 33, and publisher John Hueston, 67, a father-son team who run the small town paper in east Elgin County, should happen when Ontario Court Justice Glen Donald makes his decision next month.

The Huestons were charged with obstructing a police officer on June 24, 2017, while trying to find out what happened when a car drove over a steep cliff, killing the driver.

The incident was later declared a suicide, but only after the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the provincial police watchdog, became involved because it was determined that an OPP officer had been following the car not long before the fatal plunge.

The SIU’s involvement seemed to put everyone on edge at the crash scene on Springfield Road where police and firefighters were attempting to pull the car out of the water when the Huestons drove around a road-closed sign to find out what was going on at the cliff.

Within minutes of discussions with at least three police officers, and “the bum’s rush without any explanation” as Cudmore described it, the Huestons were handcuffed, charged, and driven to the St. Thomas OPP detachment where they were detained for hours.

Their cameras were also confiscated and photos taken of the scene, depicting some trucks, were made evidence at the trial.

Cudmore told Donald that the Huestons did nothing wrong, and certainly nothing that was obstructing the police from their duties.

Cudmore said it was the duty of the police to protect freedom of the press and “they failed to protect that duty.”

The first officer to tell the Huestons they shouldn’t be at the scene without any explanation was assigned duties to respond to the media’s inquiries, he said.

And “in no way, shape or form” did the Huestons stop the officers from carrying out their jobs as they claimed, Cudmore said.

The reason the recovery operation had to shut down for a few minutes was because OPP Insp. Brad Fishleigh forgot to leave his radio used to communicate with the fire crews with another officer when he went to speak to the Huestons.

Cudmore noted that the officers and the fire chief who testified gave different time lines. “If you accept the evidence of the fire chief, the shutdown was before the journalists arrived,” Cudmore said.

The best estimate on time was from one officer who said it was seven minutes from the time the Huestons arrived until their arrest, he said.

The Huestons were acting “in the public interest and the journalists have the right, duty and obligation to cover it,”Cudmore said.

And there was an OPP news release to support their actions – and no where in it did it tell them not to investigate the scene or take photos, he said.

Once they were at the scene, the Huestons weren’t told why they couldn’t stand at the edge of the bean field or anywhere else once where they were confronted.

Cudmore told Donald that there are cases when the press can obstruct justice “but in this case, it does not even come close.”

“This is not a case of the media interfering with the police, it’s a case of the police interfering with the media carrying out their obligation,” he said.

The two other provincial offences charges the Huestsons pleaded not guilty to, trespassing and driving around a road-closed sign, were “minor charges added on for no good jursiprudential reason,” Cudmore said, and they should be stayed.

Assistant Crown attorney Celia Jutras agreed freedom of the press is important but in this case, because of the SIU mandate especially, the Huestons were in the wrong.

John Hueston, she said, was adamant he was within his rights, even after they were asked to leave. And Brett Hueston, she said, continued to take photos after he was told to stop.

Freedom of the press, Jutras said, should be “curtailed” in the interest of public safety and to allow police officers to do their jobs properly.

“It’s indisputable the duties of the police officers were made more difficult by the conduct of the Huestons,” she said.

And there shouldn’t be a stay on the provincial offences charges, because this was not an exceptional situation. It was not unusual, she said, for more charges to be laid after an initial arrest.

Jutras added that the SIU are usually called in only for the most serious of matters and the Huestons knew that the SIU was involved.

Donald said he wanted time to decide his verdict.

The Huestons return to court on Oct. 22.

https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/jud ... in-october
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