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Spratt & von Dehn found guilty of violating BC’s ‘bubble zone’:
no jail time, both will appeal
VANCOUVER, June 20, 2011 (RKRNews) — Two prominent pro-life activists were convicted of violating BC’s infamous “bubble zone” law in provincial court today, but will serve no jail time—and their convictions and sentences will be appealed.
Don Spratt was fined $1,000 fine and sentenced to two years’ probation; Cissy von Dehn was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Both were arrested June 19, 2009 for standing inside the “bubble zone” outside a building at 2525 Commercial Drive that houses an abortion mill, passing out copies of the Access to Abortion Services Act (the “bubble zone” law) while wearing sandwich-board signs that said “WARNING! YOU CAN BE ARRESTED UNDER BILL 48” and “BE INFORMED. READ BILL 48.”
The previous day, Spratt had learned that the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his appeal of an earlier conviction under the same law, when he had carried a cross made of 2x4s and a small sign reading “you shall not kill” into the bubble zone.
Speaking for both accused, defence counsel Doug Christie said the conviction would be appealed on four grounds:
• The court ruled that the Access to Abortion Services Act is a “strict liability” statute, which means that proving mens rea (intent) is not necessary for a conviction. But Christie (as Mrs. Von Dehn’s counsel) and Ron MacDonald (Mr. Spratt’s counsel) both argued that the Act is not a “strict liability” statute.
“They were convicted because of who they are—prominent pro-life activists,” said Christie. “But it doesn’t matter who does the action, it’s only the action itself that the law addresses.”
• The court erred in not recognizing their “due diligence”—the fact that they had taken steps to determine that what they did—passing our copies of a law exactly as published by the government of BC—was not a crime.
“In no jurisdiction could distributing copies of a law be construed to be a violation of that same law,” said Christie.
• The court erred in defining “officially induced error” too narrowly.
Mrs. von Dehn had been inside the zone carrying identical warning signs on three previous occasions, and police had informed her that her actions were not violations of the Act.
• The court erred in not limiting the meaning of the terms “protest” and “sidewalk interference”.
No evidence was introduced at trial that anyone on the sidewalk had been impeded by the presence of Spratt and von Dehn; nor had they said anything about abortion.
Before sentencing, Spratt made a statement explaining why he felt compelled to oppose abortion in Canada. In 40 years of assisting the oppressed in impoverished nations around the world, he said, he has seen how tyranny develops: first, human rights are crushed when those who cannot defend themselves are oppressed or killed; then, civil rights are also destroyed, as anyone who attempts to defend the helpless is punished.
“The Canadian government, like all tyrants before them, are not only committing human rights violations against the pre-born, but have moved on to deny the civil rights of anyone who dares to speak up or intervene on behalf of the downtrodden. True to the pattern of repressive governments everywhere, our constitutional protections are swept aside, and off to jail we go!” he said.
“To be arrested and jailed, simply for informing the public of the existence of a law that could send them to prison, looks and feels a lot like despotism to me!”
He quoted Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, when he introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960:
“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think is right, free to oppose what I believe is wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
Comparing abortion to slavery—both are the abuse of one person’s rights for the benefit of another, according to legal scholar Charles I. Lugosi—Mr. Spratt also quoted U.S. President Abraham Lincoln:
“Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You cannot have the right to do what is wrong’, and ‘If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.’ I say, ‘If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong; and we cannot have a right to choose to do wrong’.”
Mr. Spratt’s full 2,300-word statement is to be made available on-line at: