Linda Gibbons is interviewed Nov. 12 by media after charges were withdrawn against her in a Toronto courtroom for her pro-life activism. Photo by Tony Gosgnach

After three months in prison, Gibbons’ charges withdrawn

By  Tony Gosgnach, Catholic Register Special
  • November 19, 2014

TORONTO - Charges of disobeying a court order and obstructing a peace officer against Toronto pro-life demonstrator Linda Gibbons were withdrawn on Nov. 12, charges that never should have been laid in the first place, according to her lawyer. 

That is because Gibbons had earlier this year been acquitted on appeal in the Superior Court of Ontario of similar charges after she was arrested for the same actions at the Morgentaler site in 2012. Justice Gary Trotter overturned a lower-court conviction, rejecting its finding that Gibbons had engaged in “intimidating” behaviour for brandishing a placard depicting an image of a crying infant with the words, “Why, mom? When I have so much love to give.” 

The withdrawn charges were laid Aug. 7. But lawyer Daniel Santoro says that, despite the withdrawal, justice was far from served in the case. Worse yet, said Santoro, Gibbons languished in prison at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ont., for three months as the Crown attorney’s office failed to provide the defence with disclosure as required and sheriff ’s officials involved in the arrest did not submit will-say statements. 

Crown attorney Daniel Brandes told the court on Nov. 12 that without the sheriffs’ statements, there was no probability of conviction and withdrew the charges. Following the dismissal, reporters asked Brandes whether the previous acquittal and the current withdrawal meant Gibbons could demonstrate at the Morgentaler site without fear of arrest. Brandes was non-committal, saying she would have to decide her actions in consultation with her legal counsel. 

The Morgentaler abortion site on Hillsdale Avenue is protected by a civil court injunction that prevents certain activities within a defined zone around it. The question is whether Gibbons’ walking back and forth on the sidewalk outside the site with a placard, distributing pamphlets and attempting to speak to abortion-bound women breaks the terms of the injunction. 

Gibbons and Santoro believe it does not. Santoro has two appeals underway regarding two other previous convictions registered against Gibbons, one of which will be heard at the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on Jan. 16, 2015. One of his main arguments is that Gibbons was not named within the text of the injunction and, therefore, is not bound by its terms. 

After her release to hugs and congratulations from a group of supporters waiting to meet her in the courtroom, Gibbons said she had a constitutional right to be on sidewalks outside abortion sites, demonstrating and counselling. Her time in prison was spent leading a Bible study of a half-dozen inmates and she said she counselled two pregnant inmates whom she believes changed their minds about undergoing abortions. 

(Gosgnach is a freelance writer in Hamilton, Ont.) 

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