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Bubble zone on trial

By Tony Gosgnach

Pro-Life demonstrator Linda Gibbons. Photo by Sue CarelessPro-life demonstrator Linda Gibbons walked out of court a free woman to the hugs of supporters on Jan. 12 after a criminal court judge quashed a charge of disobeying a court order against her. She had been held in prison since her arrest Oct. 8 outside the Scott Clinic in downtown Toronto, which is shielded by a legal bubble zone established as part of a "temporary" court injunction implemented in 1994.

The development is the second in a row for Gibbons, who similarly was immediately released from custody last Sept. 30 after a judge found her not guilty of obstructing a peace officer. Now her lawyer, Daniel Santoro, has successfully argued that Gibbons could not be criminally charged with disobeying a court order, since the injunction that shields the Scott site was imposed by a civil court.

Noting that the 1994 injunction was a civil proceeding, the judge said, "There are rules for civil matters and there are rules for criminal matters. They're separate and apart ... The rules are clear and mutually exclusive."

The latest development presents an interesting conundrum for those who have prosecuted Gibbons over the past 15 years. With judges having successively thrown out charges of obstructing a peace officer and disobeying a court order, the province and Crown attorney's office appear to be left with little option but to launch a civil proceeding against her, if they wish to pursue the matter at all. They have two years from the date of the alleged transgression to do so.

However, a civil proceeding raises the spectre of a challenge to the legality of the injunction itself, which was supposed to be temporary but has now stretched to 15 years.

In related news, an Angus Reid poll released in January has found that 92 percent of Canadians do not know that under the country’s current legislation the killing of an unborn child is permitted at any time from conception up to the moment of birth.

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