Citing her own knowledge of the Barry and Honey Sherman investigation, a Toronto judge has ruled that all police documents detailing the almost two-year-old probe must remain sealed for now.
“Based on Detective Constable Yim’s evidence and my knowledge of the case from the informations to obtain (search warrants and production orders), I remain satisfied that the sealing orders are necessary to protect the integrity of the ongoing police investigation,” Justice Leslie Pringle of the Ontario Court of Justice ruled Monday.
“This is not a cold case where active investigation has ceased or progress has stalled,” Pringle wrote in her judgment. Pringle is the lone justice tasked with reviewing information the Toronto homicide unit puts before her related to the Sherman case. To date she has authorized 38 production orders and warrants to obtain paper and electronic records detectives believe they need to solve the murders.
Court was told last week that Pringle sealed all the material and, each time detectives execute a warrant or production order, the “entity” ordered to produce the information also receives an order from Pringle forbidding them to tell the “owner” of the records that police are snooping around. An entity could be a bank, cellular phone company, or even an automotive company that stores GPS locational information, court heard.
Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey — billionaires and philanthropists — were found dead in their home on Dec. 15, 2017. The couple were strangled, seated in their basement pool room, each held up by a man’s leather belt looped around the neck and tied to a metre high stainless steel railing.
The Star has sought access to the search warrant and production order information in a bid to shed light on the case, particularly some apparent missteps by police. Among them, a six-week delay in ruling it a double homicide (murder suicide was the original theory), delays in obtaining DNA and fingerprint samples to rule out suspects, and failure to review in a timely fashion seized electronic surveillance tapes from Apotex and a neighbour on the Shermans’ street.
The Supreme Court of Canada has previously ruled in other cases that when a warrant or production order is served it is considered public information — unless the police can show that to release the information would compromise the investigation.
During the Star’s court hearing, a stack of manila folders with the sealed “informations to obtain” were brought into the courtroom. Other than the police and a crown attorney, nobody but Justice Pringle has seen the more than 600-page document police have filed and continuously update as more information comes in.
Pringle said her extensive knowledge of the case from viewing the documents leads her to believe the Sherman “investigation is progressing.” To reveal their contents would “negate all the work the police have done.”
The Star had asked Pringle to consider releasing parts of the police documents, something that has been done in media applications involving other cases. For example, the Star has argued that it would not harm the investigation if documents detailing the reason for the initial murder-suicide theory were released. During a Star reporter’s cross examination of Det. Const. Dennis Yim, the detective revealed that estate files relating to the late Barry and Honey Sherman are “embedded” throughout the police documents. Yim said none of the information can be released at this stage of the case because detectives do not know which parts could harm the probe if made public.
Pringle agreed: “Partial disclosure of the materials with redactions is not feasible at this time since it is impossible to predict what can safely be untangled for release without compromising the case,” Pringle wrote in her judgment.
In her ruling, Pringle also noted that the Toronto Police intelligence unit has recently prepared an “analytical report” on “voluminous material” seized from a recent production order. Pringle said that intelligence report “is expected to lead to further investigative steps and more applications for judicial authorizations.”
Meanwhile, police are also reviewing hundreds of tips provided to police by a Toronto lawyer and private investigation team the Shermans’ four children hired the day after the bodies were discovered to probe the case in a parallel investigation. Court heard that among the tips that have come into the tip line following the Sherman children’s’ offer of a $10-million reward was at least one tip provided by a psychic. Court heard that 343 tips have been passed on to police by the Sherman children’s private team as of last July. The Toronto homicide squad officers review all of this private information, court heard. No tips have been provided to police in the last three months, court heard.
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