Verdict to be rendered on March 21 in Mary Wagner case
TORONTO, February 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life heroine Mary Wagner will have to wait until March 21 to find out whether she will be found guilty or not guilty on a charge of mischief and two counts of failing to comply with probation orders concerning her arrest at the site of the Bloor West Village “Women’s Clinic” - an abortion mill - last November 8. She was remanded to that date by Mr. Justice S. Ford Clements of the Ontario Court of Justice after a day-long trial in downtown Toronto Tuesday.
Clements heard from three witnesses and listened to submissions from Crown attorney Derek Ishak and defence counsel Russell Browne after Wagner – who is out of custody following her release on bail – entered a plea of not guilty. The hearing began with a contested issue, as Ishak attempted to amend the information on the mischief charge to reference a different subsection of the Criminal Code than was originally cited. This was strenuously objected to by Browne, who said the move was a last-minute “shifting of gears” that hampered a defence he had prepared using the original information. However, Clements upheld Ishak’s application and allowed the amendment.
First on the witness stand was Patricia Hasen, who described herself as a nurse and 50 per cent owner of the abortion centre Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic Inc., which was established in 2005. She said her site leases the property from Paramed Properties and her name is on the lease. Hasen said her business operates from Tuesday to Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m. “until the last patient goes home,” which could be anywhere from noon to 3 p.m.
On November 8, she said there were 10-12 patients and their escorts at the site when she was alerted by a co-worker that “Mary is in the clinic” and called the police, as she usually does in such circumstances. She said she then asked Wagner, whom she saw carrying roses and pamphlets, to leave several times, but Wagner refused to do so.
Hasen claimed, “People were getting upset, crying, asking why we weren’t doing something” about Wagner’s presence. She then asked the patients’ escorts to leave the site and brought the patients themselves into a secure area behind bulletproof glass, where “counselling” takes place and abortions are committed. She said Wagner moved to enter the secure area and tried to “push” her way through by holding the door open, but the door was eventually closed and police arrived in 15-20 minutes.
Toronto police officer Douglas Eaton was the second Crown witness and testified that he arrived at the abortion site to find “a lone female standing in the lobby” and arrested her under the Trespass to Property Act after asking her to leave and she refused. He noted she was holding a bag and flowers at the time. Under cross-examination by Browne, Eaton acknowledged no attempt had been made to interview any of the patients who were allegedly so upset at Wagner’s presence.
Browne called as his witness Dr. Philip Ney, a child and family psychiatrist and child psychologist, under whom Wagner has studied in the past. His testimony was immediately objected to by Ishak, who charged that Ney was not qualified before the court as an expert witness and had no direct knowledge of the events of November 8. His concerns were shared by Clements, who asked Browne of what relevance Ney’s appearance was at the hearing. After extensive discussions between Browne and Clements, Ney was dismissed from the witness stand.
In his closing submissions, Browne said Hasen had little direct knowledge of Wagner’s conduct on November 8, seeing her only for a few minutes in an incident that lasted some two hours. He suggested the degree of disruption suffered by the abortion site was minimal at best and not enough to constitute a criminal offence. There was no disruption to the “business” and no physical contact involved. In addition, the police were remiss in not interviewing any of the patients who were alleged to be upset at Wagner’s presence, he said.
For his part, Ishak said the charges were proven beyond a reasonable doubt on all counts. He suggested the evidence of corroborating witnesses was not necessary and that interference with the business was constituted just by Wagner’s presence and her refusing to leave when asked to do so. In addition, he referred to Hasen’s testimony that Wagner had held a door open while it was being shut and the fact that patient escorts were asked to leave the premises.
Ishak continued there was no evidence that Wagner was there simply for the purpose of communicating with patients. Holding the door, he added, went beyond simple communication. Finally, he said, there was no justification for Wagner’s presence in the first place, as she was forbidden to be there by a probation order.
The Wednesday March 21 hearing, which may include both a verdict and sentencing if Wagner is found guilty, will begin at 10 a.m. in Room 504 of the College Park courthouse at Yonge and College Streets in downtown Toronto. However, the hearing may be traversed to another room depending on where the Crown and judge are assigned that day.