Toronto
2 min

Crown threatens

The first time Paul Culver was asked how The Bijou snafu affects bathhouses, it’s possible that he simply didn’t hear the question.



Sandwiched by a throng of reporters outside Old City Hall, the chief Crown attorney had a lot of explaining to do about The Bijou raids. He’d just told the court why he was dropping criminal charges against 19 men swept up in the shakedowns.



At the same time, he said he was out to clarify something, too.



“There may have been some confusion between the police and certain members of the community about how the law prohibiting sex in public should be applied or enforced,” Culver told the court.



“The confusion that there might have been at that time leads the Crown to conclude that it is not possible to successfully prosecute these particular charges.



“However, any confusion that might have existed at the time that these charges arose can reasonably exist no longer.”



Culver said the sex acts police viewed at The Bijou were indeed criminal and warned that similar cases will be prosecuted in the future.



A 1997 Supreme Court ruling against lap dancing, he said, outlaws sex in “commercial and public places.”



Despite a shaky streak of civic goodwill that has generally safeguarded the tubs since the gay community responded to massive raids in ’81 with riots, police have said in recent months they will press charges if they come across any dirty scenes at the tubs.



So if the lap dancing decision can be applied to The Bijou, “What does this mean for bathhouses?” this reporter asked Culver.



This time he appeared to hear the sentence, looking at his questioner while waiting out a query from one of the networks, then answering to that.



For the most part, Culver was questioned about the “secret deal” stopping the police from arresting gay sex culprits.



A number of reporters maintained that straights would have had the book thrown at them, and they wanted to know what kind of message the decision was sending to folks at home, too.



“Certain members were sort of lulled into a false sense of security that this type of behaviour was no longer criminal,” Culver said. “The Supreme Court Of Canada clearly said it was, and hopefully the issue today is, if the police choose to lay this type of charge in the future and the evidence again is sustainable, the Crown would be arguing that it constitutes an offence.



“The message is that this kind of activity is illegal, and whatever confusion or misunderstandings before, the law should be applied to

everyone if the police so choose to lay charges.”



But one last time, for the sake of clarity, he was asked: “Is this kind of activity illegal in a bathhouse?”



By now, the scrum has thinned out with reporters following each other in search of some usual suspect or another.



“I can’t comment without knowing the precise circumstances,” Culver said.



So, what constitutes a public place?



“Any place that’s open to the public.”