On November 14, pro-life picketer Dan McCash was found not guilty by provincial court judge J.J. Belobradic. Mr. McCash has acted as a pro-life counselor at the abortuary two or three times a week during the noon hour since last spring. He has spoken to patients and staff on a number of occasions in an attempt to dissuade them from having or performing abortions. In court Mr. McCash described his actions as “political interference.”
Abortionist Scott testified that he was “embarrassed” by Mr. McCash’s activities. On one occasion on July 15, Mr. McCash knocked on the window of a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada and held a copy of the July/August Interim to the glass while abortionist Scott was inside doing business. On the front page of that issue there was a headline referring to the abortionist and a photograph depicting Scott assaulting a picketer.
Further evidence was heard that Mr. McCash referred to the abortionist as a “murderer,” a “baby-killer,” and “Hitler-like” when he left the bank and placed an order in a nearby restaurant. The abortionist complained that the same was said to him at a bus stop two days later.
Legal counsel Paul Dodds argued on behalf of Mr. McCash that this activity did not amount to “watching and besetting” and in any case his purpose was to compel the abortionist to abstain from doing something he had no right to do under Canadian law.
Crown counsel argued that Mr. McCash was interfering with the abortionist’s “right” to eat lunch and do his banking.
In his reserved judgment of the October 17 trial, Judge Belobradic decided that “the defendant’s purpose was to compel Dr. Scott to abstain from performing abortions.” He went on to note that the abortion clinic is not an accredited hospital as required by the Canadian Criminal Code and that to sustain a conviction it must be proved that the abortionist had a “lawful right” to perform abortions. This, Crown Counsel could not and did not do. It was therefore “unnecessary to resolve the other issues raised in argument.”
Mr. McCash is the father of three and holds a responsible position in the Ontario Civil Service. He said of his acquittal, “It was the only logical conclusion, but, the way the legal system is working today, I would not have been shocked if I had been jailed for the month.” (Indeed, Mr. McCash was jailed for five days in October for “shouting.” See the November issue of the Interim.)
Legal counsel Paul Dodds remarked, “The Court’s decision in this case is based on the Criminal Code definition of watching and besetting. Such activity is illegal only if it is for the purpose of compelling someone to stop doing what he has a lawful right to do.”