In an unexpected – and suspicious – twist, a man charged after Campaign Life Coalition B.C. president John Hof was assaulted this past March has changed his mind and decided to proceed to a trial.

Douglas Chase of Vancouver Island was charged last March 14 after a man walked up to Hof, who was joining other B.C. pro-lifers in a regular Friday picket outside a Vancouver abortuary, and punched him in the face. Hof was left bruised and bleeding as his assailant was led away from the scene in handcuffs. Several pro-lifers witnessed the attack and provided statements to police.

At a subsequent court hearing, Chase’s lawyer indicated that his client would be applying for “alternate measures,” which would divert the case from being handled as a Criminal Code matter and instead involve a meeting with a probation officer, an admission of guilt an apology and the like.

However, at a brief July 31 hearing, counsel representing Chase told the court that her client, who was not present for the hearing, had changed his mind about alternate measures and would be contesting the assault charge. The judge then announced that a two-day trial will be held on May 17-18, 2004, with a trial confirmation hearing scheduled for April 16.

Hof said he left court following the July 31 hearing “dumbfounded” at the length of time the case is taking to reach a conclusion. The trial will be held well over a year after the incident and he is concerned about a loss of recollections of events by witnesses and police.

In noting similar, questionable events that surrounded legal proceedings against a woman who pepper sprayed a Toronto crisis pregnancy counselor last year – and then was awarded an absolute discharge – Hof said he is going to be “tenacious” in ensuring that the assault charge is properly pursued by the Crown attorney’s office. “We’ve got meticulous documentation of everything. I don’t know what their game is, but we’re not going to play,” he said.