Friday, March 24, 1999
11:12am ET

Man Caught Masturbating Wins Appeal

TORONTO (Reuters) -- A man convicted of masturbating in public has received a helping hand from a Canadian court after it threw out an order requiring him to parade around a with a sign admitting the crime.

An Ontario provincial court tossed out a ruling on Wednesday last month requiring Marvin Mezquita-Duenas to stand in front of the city's old city hall wearing a large sign with the words: "I was convicted of committing an indecent act in High Park."

A trial judge had ordered the unusual punishment after Mezquita-Duenas pleaded guilty to exposing himself and masturbating last year in the presence of two female joggers in the Toronto park.

Mezquita-Duenas was to spend each morning for five days standing in front of the building which serves as a clearing house for the city's most violent offenders.

He was also ordered to seek psychiatric treatment and avoid all public parks as part of his 18-month probation.

"The condition itself is manifestly inappropriate and an affront to the values upon which our system of justice is founded", Justice David McCombs of the Ontario Court said in his ruling on the appeal.

While exposing convicted criminals, especially sex offenders, to public humiliation has gained some acceptance in parts of the United States, the practice has been rare in Canada.

Some Canadian jurisdictions have allowed the publication of the names of people convicted of soliciting prostitutes and at least one judge has ordered a shoplifter to wear a sign admitting theft.

The Canadian province of Alberta, sometimes compared to Texas in its stern approach to law and order, is currently considering a law that would require special license plates for drunk drivers.

The lawyer for Mezquita-Duenas, however, said the punishment meted out in this case could have subjected her client to the possibility of both emotional and physical harm.

"It would have been a media frenzy and there would have been a serious possibility of vigilante justice", Kim Schofield said Thursday.

Copyright © 1999 by Reuters Limited. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.