Linda Gibbons now awaits Supreme Court date

On April 12, a provincial court judge dismissed a defence application for a stay of proceedings on the basis of abuse of process with regard to a charge of disobeying a court order laid against Linda Gibbons in January 2009. Madam Justice Mara Beth Greene then found Gibbons guilty of the charge, after an agreed statement of facts was read to the court, and sentenced her to one day in jail, in addition to the over two years she has spent in pre-trial custody since her arrest.

During hearings March 7 and 8, defence lawyers Daniel Santoro and Nicholas Rouleau had argued that what they saw as an abuse of process centred on the Crown having been advised by lawyer Peter Jervis that he was no longer representing Gibbons as of August 1994. That was when the pro-life demonstrator ignored his expressed instructions not to violate the terms of a court injunction prohibiting pro-life activity within specified zones around certain Toronto abortion sites.

Jervis personally testified that he had communicated to the Crown’s office on several occasions, both in writing and verbally, that he was removing himself as her counsel. If so, Gibbons could not have legally given her assent to subsequent developments in the handling of the injunction.

Crown attorneys Mathew Asma and Zachary Green, however, replied that Jervis never formally removed himself as counsel of record for Gibbons and so, for all intents and purposes, continued to be her lawyer.

Judge Greene, in her ruling, said that, although both sides could have handled the situation better, she accepted the Crown’s evidence that it did not know Gibbons was unrepresented after 1994. She also found that the abuse of process application was “a collateral attack” on the injunction itself, a tactic not permitted under court rules.

Greene added that the Crown is on notice that Gibbons, as expressed by her counsel, is not happy with the pace of the litigation (the “temporary” injunction remains in place almost 17 years later) and wishes to proceed expeditiously on resolving the issue.

The subsequent one-day jail sentence meant that Gibbons should have been released from jail the same day; however, she was still being held at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton on the evening of April 12. Although the jail offered no explanation, the continued detention may have been because there is another conviction for disobeying a court order dating back to October 2008 still to be dealt with.

In that matter, the Supreme Court of Canada has set a tentative date of Dec. 14, 2011 to hear a defence appeal on the basis that Gibbons has been improperly prosecuted in criminal courts for violations of an order issued by a civil court. In the meantime, the parties will meet again on Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. in the College Park courthouse at Yonge and College streets in downtown Toronto to set a tentative trial date on the assumption that the Supreme Court will turn down the appeal.

A version of this article originally appeared at April 14 and is reprinted with permission.