By Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press
QUEBEC – Releasing video recordings of the deadly 2017 mosque shooting in Quebec City risks traumatizing victims of the attack or instigating others to commit violence, a Crown prosecutor argued Tuesday.
The footage could be presented as evidence during sentencing arguments for Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty in March to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.
Crown prosecutor Thomas Jacques is categorically against having the videos made public, while a consortium of seven news organizations, including The Canadian Press, is arguing in favour of having the recordings released.
Superior Court Justice Francois Huot said he will rule Wednesday morning, before sentencing arguments begin for the 28-year-old gunman.
Jacques said he is not opposed, however, to media describing the content of the videos. He said his suggestion is a reasonable compromise.
The Crown called a doctor to the stand as an expert witness on issues involving radicalization and social stigma to support its argument the footage should not be viewed by the public.
Cecile Rousseau told the court that showing the videos carries three major risks.
The recordings could cause trauma to victims, she said, as well as trigger a “copycat effect” where one or more people try to recreate the violence seen in the footage. The videos could also be used as propaganda, she said.
Rousseau, who watched the footage, said it would be cruel and inhuman for people close to those who died or were injured to see what was recorded by video camera.
For the children who lost their fathers, seeing the videos could trigger feelings of vengeance, she added.
“It is not in (the children’s) best interest to see these images,” Rousseau said.
Jacques added that releasing the images is not a necessary step to properly informing the public.
“The right of the public to information is limited when social values take precedence,” he said.
It’s up to Jacques to convince the judge because criminal trials are public and so is the evidence filed in court.
The media consortium’s motion to release the videos didn’t include every image captured by the cameras. Footage that showed “raw violence” wasn’t in the motion.
Attorney Jean-Francois Cote, who represents the media consortium, said his clients are seeking to fulfil their role, which is to inform citizens.
He said the media organizations are acting responsibly because they limited their request for the footage.
Restricting journalists to merely describing what’s in the videos isn’t enough, Cote said, because each reporter has his or her own interpretation of what is in the footage.
“The video speaks,” Cote said. “It is striking. It is clearly pertinent in determining the sentence.”