Canadian Press
Monday, January 18, 1999

B.C. to appeal child pornography decision

by Ian Bailey

VANCOUVER (CP) -- British Columbia is launching an appeal to overturn a controversial court decision that says it shouldn't be illegal to possess child pornography.

"Crown counsel will seek to expedite this appeal as this case may have significant impact on other similar cases before the court", Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh said Monday.

Justice Duncan Shaw of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the law against possessing child porn violate a person's constitutional freedoms.

Dosanjh said it's the province's view that the law is constitutionally sound and that view is supported by an earlier decision in Ontario.

He said pending its appeal British Columbia is putting together a strategy to deal with pornography cases now in the court system.

Adjournments will be sought on cases in provincial court. The decision is not seen as binding on cases in B.C. Supreme Court, Dosanjh said.

"The Crown will proceed on those cases and have them argued on their merits", Dosanjh said.

Federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan said the whole matter could well end up in the Supreme Court of Canada.

"We're going to defend the law", she said in Toronto.

"We respect the decision obviously of ... the judge in question, but we believe that there are strong arguments in relation to the constitutionality of the law."

The case behind the ruling involved John Sharpe, 65, of Vancouver, who was charged with possessing child pornography after police raided his home in 1995.

Sharpe, a retired town planner, defended himself in B.C. Supreme Court because he could not afford a lawyer or find a legal-aid attorney who would mount a constitutional challenge.

While the judge tossed out the possession charge against Sharpe, the father of two grown children -- who was prominent in weekend TV reports talking about his case -- remains accused of distributing child porn.

Shaw's ruling sparked a whirlwind of mostly outrage. Some critics questioned the skills of the 66-year-old justice, who was appointed to the bench in 1987 after a stellar career as a civil litigator.

Shaw's ruling had police in British Columbia scrambling to figure out how to proceed.

By the end of Monday, however, the RCMP said it would continue its investigations on child pornography.

"The direction we're getting is to carry on with investigations and leave decisions on whether charges will be laid to Crown counsel", said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Russ Grabb.

The Vancouver police department appears equally determined to carry on its with its investigations.

"We will continue to actively investigate cases involving child pornography, including the possession of child pornography", said Const. Anne Drennan.

However, Drennan said police will consult senior Crown before taking enforcement actions.

In British Columbia, police are not allowed to lay charges. They can only recommend charges to the Crown, which makes final decisions.

Revenue Canada also made it clear it will continue to police the borders for attempts to import child pornography.

Spokesman Michel Cleroux said from Ottawa that the laws barring the import of child pornography have not been affected by Shaw's ruling.

Copyright © 1999 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.