Tony Gosgnach

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Judge lambasts Linda Gibbons, gives maximum sentence for abortion clinic protest

Tony Gosgnach
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TORONTO, September 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Linda Gibbons was sentenced to the maximum of six months in prison, with 29 days yet to serve when taking into account time already in custody, as her sentencing hearing concluded at the provincial court at College Park in downtown Toronto this afternoon.

She had been found guilty of disobeying a court order at the conclusion of her trial this past Monday by Madam Justice Feroza Bhabha, in relation to her peaceful protest outside the "Morgentaler Clinic" abortion site in Toronto on June 11. That facility is protected by a "bubble zone" law that prohibits pro-life activity within a certain perimeter around the building.

Gibbons has been in and out of jail for years over her protests outside Toronto abortion clinics, during which she silently walks back and forth on the sidewalk, and offers counseling to women who come to the clinic to abort their babies. 

The judge went on to administer a tongue-lashing to Gibbons at today's hearing.

"She has indicated no remorse to the court," Bhabha said angrily. "She believes in the rightness of her cause ... (but) abortions are legal. Miss Gibbons does not appreciate that it's a legal right."

The judge added a "strong message" needs to be sent to her and others that "there needs to be respect for the law" and she characterized Gibbons as "a martyr for her cause ... It's very likely that she will appear again before this court."

She said that Gibbons and others need to face the fact the democratic process allows them avenues other than law-breaking to address laws with which they don't agree. Failure to follow that process, she said, leads to "mayhem and anarchy ... What if people didn`t believe in gun control laws and decided which laws they would obey?"

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She said Gibbons's continual appearance before the courts meant she was not amenable to "rehabilitation" and her conduct "must be denounced," with general deterrence emphasized in order to "enhance respect for the law." She turned down defence counsel Daniel Santoro`s submission that Gibbons be credited on a 1.5-for-1 basis for time already served and instead agreed with the Crown that credit would be only 1-for-1.

That elicited groans from one of Gibbons's supporters in the public gallery and prompted Bhabha to sharply tell him to be quiet. "We`ve heard this all before," said the man, to which Bhabha said, "If you`re bored, then leave!"

Gibbons's friend, Mary Burnie, was also watching and asked to address the court, but was told, "No, you may not!`` by the judge, who then gathered her belongings and stormed out of the room.

The blow-up carried shades of the incident last year in which fellow pro-life demonstrator Mary Wagner was denounced and attacked by Justice S. Ford Clements, whose sentence was later overturned, and inflammatory comments reprimanded, by an appeals court judge. Clements also ejected one of Wagner`s supporters from the courtroom on that occasion. A complaint to the Judicial Council of Ontario over Clements's conduct is still in the making.

Santoro has already said he will appeal Bhabha's conviction, along with two earlier ones levied by Justices Mara Beth Greene and William R. Wolski, on the bases that a court injunction protecting the Morgentaler site does not apply to Gibbons and, even if it does, her conduct does not constitute a breach of its conditions.

Outside court, Burnie, who speaks to Gibbons by telephone almost daily, said her friend`s spirits behind bars are "very good" and she continues to hold the respect of her fellow prisoners. Burnie lamented, however, that a planned joint stay at a cottage will now have to be delayed until after Gibbons`s October 10 release.

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