Police dismiss journalist’s complaints of alleged police misconduct

Linda Gibbons was released from prison July 7, after serving her latest term for violating a “bubble zone” court injunction at the Scott Clinic abortuary in Toronto last Feb. 13.

Gibbons had received a six-month sentence (including time served) and two years’ probation upon her conviction in provincial court on April 13. She had been charged with breaching probation and obstructing a peace officer after picketing and praying within the 60-foot bubble zone.

At the time, her counsel, New York-based lawyer John Broderick, characterized her sentence as “harsh.” He had told the court Gibbons was acting prayerfully and non-violently, and for “spiritual reasons.”

Upon her latest release, Gibbons spent a busy week with her daughter and friends in Ontario, before trekking out West to assist her parents in making a move from B.C. to Alberta.

“She was very happy,” said Robert Hinchey, a friend and worker at the Toronto crisis pregnancy agency Aid to Women. “So she should be, because she is a wonderful woman, does a lot of good work and has a good conscience.”

Hinchey added that as is her practice, Gibbons counselled a number of pregnant women in prison, several of whom changed their minds on abortion in favour of continuing with their pregnancies. At least three more women were referred to Aid to Women for follow-up help as a result of Gibbons’s counselling in prison.

“One of those women went on to have her baby,” recalled Hinchey. “She arrived here with her father in their van, and we made sure they got a crib, stroller, baby clothes and other items.”

Joanne Dieleman, another friend and the director of Aid to Women, said Gibbons has been quiet since her departure, and did not leave a new phone number, indicating that she wants to escape the pressure of front-line pro-life activism for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Service complaints review branch has rejected a complaint from a journalist who was ordered by an attending police officer not to take his photograph at the time of Gibbons’s arrest on Feb. 13.

Current acting Interim co-editor Tony Gosgnach was working on a freelance basis and as editor of the Burlington, Ont.-based newspaper The Endeavour at the time. He was on the scene with a camera when a Sergeant Moyer of the Toronto Police Service approached him and warned against photographs being taken. Later, Moyer stonewalled when asked to reveal his badge number.

An inspector at the Toronto Police Service complaints review branch recently ruled Moyer’s actions did not constitute misconduct. When called by Gosgnach later, the inspector said he had not even consulted with the officer about the incident, and refused to offer any justification for the ruling. He simply advised Gosgnach, if he objected, to appeal the decision to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. That is being done.

Gosgnach has also filed a complaint with the Toronto sheriff’s office over an incident in October 2000, when a sheriff, without the authority to do so, ordered him out of the area around the Scott Clinic after Gibbons was arrested during a similar demonstration. As of press time, there has been no response to that complaint.

In October 1999, three other journalists were arrested and charged with obstructing police while covering yet another demonstration by Gibbons at the Scott Clinic. Those charges were later dropped, and complaints and appeals about police conduct were rejected by police authorities.