A new development in the pro-life movement this year has been the ever-increasing number of charges laid against picketers in Toronto. As these cases have gone through the courts, a number of important precedents have been set. The following is a summary of cases to date.
- In December 1984, 14 pro-lifers were charged with trespass following an incident on the steps at the Toronto abortuary. When the group eventually received their day in court in September, one case was dismissed for lack of evidence and six others were also dismissed on the grounds that those charged were actually seated next to the part of the steps belonging to the adjacent property.
The remaining seven were found guilty and fined a token $20 each (less than 40 per cent of the usual fine). In his precedent-setting judgment, Judge Arthur Meen ruled that the abortuary was performing abortions “openly, blatantly, and outside the law,” and that the abortions were “murder.”
- In late July and early August, Father Lawrence Abello, S.J., was charged, along with Francesco Ganhao and Sonja Holtforster, with causing a disturbance by shouting. Father Abello was found not guilty on October 15. The Ganhao and Holtforster trial is December 2.
- Daniel McCash became the first Toronto picketer to be handed a jail sentence on October 18. McCash was found guilty of causing a disturbance by shouting and was given a five day jail term. Such a sentence for a first offender is unheard of and McCash is appealing the decision.
- On November 14, Daniel McCash was acquitted on a charge of “watch and beset” laid by abortionist Robert Scott. The judge ruled that he was not guilty because “his purpose was to compel Robert Scott to stop doing what he had no legal right to do.”
- On November 20, 5 pro-lifers appeared in court charged with trespass, following a “sit-in” at the abortuary in July. Stephen Jalsevac, Tom and Barbara Brown, Annette McLaughlin and Antonio Conhoto were found guilty and ordered to pay a $50 fine or spend three days in jail. (See front page story, this issue.)
- On November 25, abortionist Robert Scott appears in court to set a trial date. He is charged with assault on Godwin Cotter and Fred Huston.
- On November 28, Helen Burnie, Dan McCash and Tom Brown appear in court to set a trial date. They are charged with “watch and beset,” on a private information charge laid by Eileen Harbinson, head of the Harbord Street Business Association.
- On December 9, Fathers Alphonse de Valk, c.s.b. and Edward Colleton, C.S.Sp., and Minister Fred Vaughn go on trial charged with “mischief to private property,” following their separate and successful attempts to padlock the rear gate of the abortuary.
Father de Valk spent one night in Don Jail when he refused to agree to bail conditions prohibiting him from going within 5 feet of the abortuary. The following day he was released when bail conditions were dropped. Father Colleton was required to give assurance that he would not commit the offence again that day. Minister Vaughn was released from custody without any conditions at all.
- On January 9, Gordon Cotter and Fred Huston continue their trial in charges of assaulting Robert Scott (they have laid counter0charges against Scott, see above). This trial began in November but was postponed when it was not completed after two days in court.
- On February 25, Padraig Omathuna appears in court on a charge of assaulting David Butt. Mr. Omathuma has counter-charged Butt with assaulting him. (David Butt seems to be employed occasionally by Ultra Word Processing, owned by Eileen Harbinson.)
Two other important court dates
- On December 16, Joe Borowski’s “Trial for Life” begins in Saskatchewan’s Supreme Court.
- On January 16, Henry Morgentaler’s second Toronto trial on abortion-related charges is scheduled to begin. This trial was postponed in September to await the Appeal Court decision on Morgentaler’s first Toronto trial.