Toronto, Ontario, April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The conclusion of Linda Gibbons’s trial on a charge of disobeying a court order was put off to at least May 4 when her defence counsel raised two legal arguments on her behalf as her trial began in a downtown Toronto courtroom Thursday morning.
Gibbons was arrested, and has been held in prison since, last December 16, when she appeared on the sidewalk outside the Morgentaler “Clinic” abortion site on Hillsdale Avenue in Toronto. Although bail was offered, she refused it on the grounds that it included a provision to stay away from abortion sites and so she has remained behind bars at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton.
As a group of supporters watched from the public gallery, counsel Daniel Santoro entered a plea of not guilty on Gibbons’s behalf after she was arraigned in court. Crown attorney Andrew Cappell then called his only witness, Sheriff Peter Krause, to the witness stand to give his account of events after he was called to the scene on December 16.
Krause said he observed Gibbons with pamphlets in hand walking silently on the sidewalk about five metres from the abortion site doorway. He told her she was in contravention of a court injunction and had to remove herself 150 metres from the site, but there was no response. He repeated the request several times and then read the text of the injunction from about a metre away.
There again being no response, Krause said he called on attending Toronto police service personnel to arrest her and remove her from the site. His testimony concluded the Crown’s case.
Santoro then stood and told Justice William R. Wolski that he would be seeking a directed verdict of not guilty as Gibbons was not named in the text of the injunction. The order made it clear that it was in effect only on the consent of the affected parties, but Gibbons never gave such consent, he said. The injunction, he argued, could not be made binding on every person in the world.
In response, Cappell said the text of the injunction stipulated that it is applicable to “Jane Doe” and persons unknown.
Secondly, Santoro argued the text of the injunction prohibits causing a nuisance within a 150-metre zone, but Gibbons’s conduct of simply walking back and forth with pamphlets in hand could in no way be construed as such. The measure’s prohibition against watching, besetting or secondary picketing also did not apply, he said, as she was only communicating information via the pamphlets.
“The order does not capture peaceful, silent standing in front of a clinic with anti-abortion literature in hand,” he said. Santoro referred to case law that demonstrates how leafleting is not illegal and cannot be considered the equivalent of picketing in every case.
Wolski put off a decision on the directed verdict motion to May 4 to give the Crown time to research and prepare its counter-arguments. He added that if the motion is not granted to the defence, the trial will then continue on June 14.
The May 4 hearing is slated to take place beginning at 10 a.m. in Room 504 of the College Park provincial court at Yonge and College Streets in downtown Toronto, but may be traversed to another room depending on where Wolski is assigned to preside that day.