By Tony Gosgnach
TORONTO, January 12, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life demonstrator Linda Gibbons walked out of court a free woman to the hugs of supporters after a criminal court judge quashed a charge of disobeying a court order against her this afternoon. She had been held in prison since her arrest last Oct. 8 outside the Scott “Clinic” abortion site in downtown Toronto, which is shielded by a legal bubble zone established as part of a “temporary” court injunction implemented in 1994.
The development is the second in a row for Gibbons, who similarly was immediately released from custody last Sept. 30 after a judge found her not guilty of obstructing a peace officer. Today, her lawyer, Daniel Santoro, successfully argued that Gibbons could not be criminally charged with disobeying a court order, since the injunction that shields the Scott site was imposed by a civil court.
Legal arguments took up the whole day, until about 4 p.m. when the judge made his finding and a smiling Gibbons was released. The Crown attorney attempted to argue that the criminal charge was an appropriate one, but the judge concluded that it was “really a simple issue” in quashing the charge.
Noting that the 1994 injunction was a civil proceeding, the judge said, “There are rules for civil matters and there are rules for criminal matters. They’re separate and apart … The rules are clear and mutually exclusive.”
The latest development presents an interesting conundrum for those who have prosecuted Gibbons over the past 15 years. With judges having successively thrown out charges of obstructing a peace officer and disobeying a court order, the province and Crown attorney’s office appear to be left with little option but to launch a civil proceeding against her, if they wish to pursue the matter at all. They have two years from the date of the alleged transgression to do so.
However, a civil proceeding raises the spectre of a challenge to the legality of the injunction itself, which was supposed to be temporary but has now stretched to the unprecedented age of 15 years. Pro-life activists in Toronto will be watching carefully to see what path the authorities choose to follow.
For her part, Gibbons had a few words as she was whisked away to a vehicle for a change of clothes and some nourishment after a long day in court: “The courts need to establish their credibility by acknowledging the rights of every human being, born or unborn.”