Editor’s Note: This updated version contains information corrected from the originally posted story.
For what is very likely the first time in B.C. history, a sexual assault survivor has successfully had the publication ban on her case lifted.
It’s a ban Kelly Favro, a 37-year-old Victoria mother, had no idea existed until more than five years after she was sexually assaulted.
“It was on my name without my knowledge or consent,” she said.
Publication bans on sexual assault cases are common and are generally in place to protect the privacy of complainants, but Crown counsel doesn’t always run the bans past them. If a case goes to court before a prosecutor has a chance to meet with the complainant, a ban may be requested to ensure the individual’s identity is protected from the outset. In these cases, B.C Prosecution Service communications counsel Dan McLaughlin said, prosecutors are usually diligent in notifying complainants of the ban’s existence and effects. But, Favro said she was never told.
“I never asked for this. I had no shame in what happened because I knew what had happened and it was the truth,” Favro said.
The publication ban wasn’t on the name of Favro’s attacker, but because Favro couldn’t connect herself with the case or speak about it publicly, she felt his identity, too, was protected. He was convicted as a sex offender in 2016, but if someone searched his name on B.C.’s court services directory they would find nothing. His name was on the sex offender registry, but that isn’t open to the public.
“He has enjoyed the luxury of not having the world know he’s a convicted sex offender,” Favro said.
She didn’t find out there was a publication ban on her case until Christmas of 2020. In March she applied to the B.C. Supreme Court to have the ban overturned – a process Favro said she couldn’t find any guidance on. And on Monday, the judge ruled in her favour.
Both the judge and Victoria lawyer Elizabete Costa, who worked 17 years as a Crown prosecutor, said they’ve never heard of this happening before in B.C. Very occasionally, a sexual assault case publication ban has been overturned by a third party, such as media, but never by a survivor as far as they know.
A few days after the seemingly historic decision, the name of Favro’s attacker, Kenneth Charles Erickson, could be found online.
“I don’t want to ruin my attacker’s life, but I want people to know there is a sex offender in the area who has been hiding under a publication ban for five years and there’s probably more,” Favro said.
Many women, she said, do a thorough search of someone before meeting up with them for a date. It’s important to her that the next person will have a heads up.
Not knowing about the ban also posed a financial risk to Favro, who could have been fined if she accidentally breached it.
In March, a sexual assault survivor in Waterloo, Ont. was fined $2,000 for emailing a transcript of the court decision to a small group of friends and family. A Superior Court judge later overturned the conviction, but the possibility for fines still exists.
“I would love for survivors to be given a heads up that this is actually going on so they don’t have to find out five years later,” Favro said.
Costa said making it mandatory to consult with complainants could easily be implemented into court if the attorney general decided to do so. It’s something Favro said she will be fighting for.
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