By Paul Tuns
The Interim

The charges against two journalists covering the Linda Gibbons arrest last October have finally been dropped.

Eight months after their ordeal began, Steve Jalsevac of Toronto and Gord Truscott of Guelph were vindicated of obstruction charges. After reviewing the evidence, the Crown admitted there was “no reasonable probability of conviction.”

Blaise MacLean, Jalsevac’s and Truscott’s lawyer, told The Interim he was always sure they wouldn’t be found guilty. He said any prosecutor who looked at the evidence objectively would realize they did not have a reasonable chance of winning, and the Crown, Don Bellshumeur, “acted in a honourable fashion,” by dropping the charges.

Jalsevac, managing director of LifeSite, and Truscott, who was writing a book about Linda Gibbons, were arrested while photographing the pro-life witness of Linda Gibbons in front of the Scott abortion clinic in Toronto on October 15, 1999. Their film and videotape was seized by police, but wasn’t released to their lawyer until May.

The government’s 1994 “temporary injunction” prohibits all pro-life activity within a “bubble zone” around abortuaries, but does not restrict the legitimate activities of journalists. Indeed, in the past, local and national media have covered Gibbons’ demonstrations without incident.

Truscott told The Interim he is “tremendously happy” the case is over. He said the ordeal cost him more than $2,000 in legal fees plus the lost income from 10 separate court appearances, but that he never expected he would be found guilty. “There were two possible outcomes,” he said. “The case would be dismissed or we would be found innocent.”

Shortly after the arrest in October Truscott and Jalsevac filed a complaint against the arresting officers from 51 Division, but the review, conducted by a fellow officer at 51 Division, concluded the officers did not act improperly. Truscott says the report “exonerated the officers in the most glowing terms.” Within 30 days after that report, Truscott and Jalsevac appealed to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services but have yet to hear how the case is proceeding.

Truscott said he is going forward with the complaint because the police made a false arrest. “There is no law the police were appealing to that covers a journalist, or anyone, taking pictures,” he said. “Police tried to silence coverage of pro-life protests. They aren’t allowed to do that.”

MacLean said the decision by the Crown not to go ahead is a victory for free speech but also for pro-life demonstrators. He said “we keep winning these things,” adding “the judges and Crown are getting tired of this,” referring to the police arresting harmless pro-life demonstrators and the journalists who cover them.

Another journalist covering the protest, freelance writer and Interim contributor Sue Careless of Toronto was also arrested an charged with obstruction. Her case is to be heard on October 30, but her lawyer, Peter Jervis, is trying to get it heard earlier.