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Top Five 2013: R v Cole

Each year at OJEN’s Toronto Summer Law Institute, a judge from the Court of Appeal for Ontario identifies five cases that are of significance in the educational setting. This summary, based on these comments and observations, is appropriate for discussion and debate in the classroom setting.

R v Cole, 2012 SCC 53, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 34

In this case, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) considered the admissibility of evidence against Richard Cole, a high school teacher charged with possession of child pornography. His employer, a school board, discovered nude and partially clothed images of an underage student on the laptop issued to Cole by the employer. These were made available to the police, and were the basis of the charge. Although it was not his personal computer, and although Cole had been advised that any files he kept on the laptop were not private, the school board permitted personal use of the computer. Cole therefore argued that he had some expectation of privacy against an unauthorized search by police. The SCC had to clarify the limits of the right to privacy in the context of employees’ personal use of computers issued for work purposes. The full decision is available here.

Key Words: Criminal Law – Child pornography – Computer – Search and seizure – Evidence – Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Expectation of privacy – Workplace law

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