Two members of Direct Action for Life, Sheila Dollard and Lianne Laurence, were acquitted of assault by trespass charges here May 15, by Alberta provincial court Judge Phillip Ketchum.

In a written decision, Judge Ketchum berated the Royal Alexandra Hospital security guards for an “impetuous arrest” that led to an “unnecessary and ill-conceived criminal prosecution.”

“This is definitely a victory for pro-life,” commented Lianne Laurence following the decision. She added that it appears the way is now clear to resume sidewalk counseling outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

It was while in pursuit of such an activity that the two named were arrested February 2. Women scheduled for abortion at the hospital are requested to be admitted by 6:00 a.m. The pro-lifers are outside the hospital doors at this early hour hoping to counsel women into keeping their babies.

Mrs. Dollard and Miss Laurence were arrested when they refused to leave the grounds at the request of Royal Alex security guards. They were charged with assault by trespass and remanded in custody for 20 hours before being released on $500 bail each.

Judge Ketchum noted that although the women went limp on being arrested, such an action “is not the use of force, and in particular, it is not the sort of active resistance contemplated by Section 31 (2).” He commented further that there was not attempt by security to actually escort the two off the grounds.

The judge also took note of the testimony of independent witnesses. Ernest Wagar, who on the morning of the arrest was accompanying a friend to the Royal Alex for an abortion. Mr. Wagar testified that he wanted to obtain information from the pro-lifers, but was deterred from doing so by the security guards.

Judge Ketchum pointed out that the “accused activity was harmless and virtually indistinguishable from the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses standing on street corners and offering religious tracts to those passing by.”

The two were defended in court by Lawyer Roseanna Saccomani.