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Newfoundland lawyer accused of sexual assault loses bid for publication ban

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Newfoundland lawyer charged with sexual assault lost his legal bid Thursday to shield his name from publication. Robert Regular was charged last year with four counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference.
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A decision from Canada's highest court is expected today in the case of a Newfoundland lawyer accused of sexual assault seeking to shield his name from publication. The Supreme Court of Canada is shown in Ottawa on January 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Newfoundland lawyer charged with sexual assault lost his legal bid Thursday to shield his name from publication.

Robert Regular was charged last year with four counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. The charges involve the same complainant, including an incident alleged to have occurred when she was 12 years old, court documents show.

A Supreme Court of Canada decision ended his legal battle for a ban that would prevent the publication of his name or any details that would identify him.

Regular, 70, was first charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference in May 2021, court documents say. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary charged him with two more counts of sexual assault in December.

The charges stem from incidents alleged to have taken place between 2002 and 2012, all in or around Conception Bay South, which is about 30 kilometres west of St. John's.

In July 2021, Regular asked the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador for a publication ban on his name, arguing he was a "prominent lawyer" with a career spanning more than three decades, and a thriving practice which included several employees and associate lawyers. He said having his name publicized would have significant professional, social and emotional impacts, especially since some allegations involve a minor, court documents say.

A judge granted an interim publication ban.

The CBC and CTV challenged the ban, arguing at a provincial Supreme Court hearing in March that the ban infringed on press freedom rights and the open court principle, which requires public access to legal proceedings.

Justice James Adams overturned the ban, writing in his March 23 decision that Regular's concerns "amounted to no more than personal and professional embarrassment and possible loss of business." To grant the ban, Adams wrote, would "constitute a sea change in the criminal law." It would also allow almost anyone charged with a criminal offence to seek the same protection, he added.

Regular's lawyers decided to take the fight to the Supreme Court, and Adams agreed to a stay of his ruling while they applied to have the high court hear the case. In the meantime, the interim publication ban remained in place, and Regular appeared in most court documents only as "R. R."

On Thursday, Canada's top court dismissed his application for an appeal, thus upholding Adams' denial of the ban. As is customary, it did not provide reasons for its decision.

Regular is set to stand trial on the charges beginning May 29, 2023, in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2022.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press