Friday November 5, 2010

Trial Delayed for Linda Gibbons

Judge cites “dire implications” of 2001 meeting in granting yet another adjournment

By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO, Ontario, November 5, 2010 ( – A development that the presiding judge described as having the potential for “dire implications” scuttled an expected trial of Linda Gibbons last week. The judge made the decision to delay the trail on the morning of October 29, when the long-time pro-life demonstrator appeared in a downtown Toronto courtroom to answer a charge of disobeying a court order.

At issue is a meeting held in 2001 between representatives of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General and lawyers for 18 pro-life demonstrators who were named in a 1994 temporary court injunction prohibiting pro-life activity within certain zones around specified Toronto abortion sites.

A letter written by lawyer Peter Jervis and produced in court by Gibbons’s lawyer Daniel Santoro, indicated that Jervis ceased representing Gibbons in 1994 – meaning that Gibbons would have been unrepresented at the 2001 meeting and could not have legally given her assent to an adjournment of those discussions, as had occurred.

Crown Attorney Matthew Asma took issue with the content of Jervis’s letter, necessitating further measures that may include Jervis having to file a sworn affidavit and appearing in court for cross-examination. Santoro was taken aback by the Crown’s position, suggesting that a letter from an officer of the court should have been sufficient. He went on to request disclosure from the Crown of its documents related to the 2001 discussions. As has been the Crown’s practice over the years, Asma equivocated, indicating he would attempt to locate the parties involved in the 2001 discussions, although that may not be possible.

Madam Justice Mara Beth Greene, who, in a departure from past practice, allowed Gibbons to sit unrestrained outside the prisoner’s box and beside Santoro, again expressed concern over the amount of time Gibbons has languished in prison awaiting trial. She repeated her observation that the frail grandmother has already served far more time behind bars than she would be sentenced to, regardless of the outcome of the trial. She asked Santoro whether Gibbons would agree to any bail conditions that would allow her to be freed pending the trial. “I can’t answer that,” Santoro replied. (To date, it has been Gibbons’s practice not to agree to any bail conditions that include staying away from abortion sites.)

“I’m going to hear submissions on this … I’m satisfied that an adjournment is needed once again,” Greene said, adding that the Crown’s position that all parties agreed to an adjournment of the 2001 hearings clearly was not true based upon Mr. Jervis’s letter. The implications that flow from that, she said, are “dire.”

Greene adjourned the proceedings to 10 am. on Friday, November 19 in Room 504 of the Ontario Court of Justice at Yonge and College Streets in downtown Toronto.

Gibbons has been imprisoned continuously since January 20, 2009 on the latest and other charges. About a half-dozen of her supporters were in the courtroom for the October 29 hearing, who stood as she entered and left the room.

Another conviction for disobeying a court order is being pursued to the Supreme Court of Canada on the basis that Gibbons was improperly prosecuted in a criminal, rather than civil court for violating terms of the 1994 court injunction.

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