2 min

Taking their time

A year-long wait for kiddie porn decision

LIFE ON HOLD. John Robin Sharpe still waits for the final decision. Credit: Xtra files

With an entire year gone by, there’s still no sign of a decision from from the Supreme Court Of Canada in the controversial John Robin Sharpe gay kiddie porn case.

“Gosh, I think it’s going to be coming down soon,” says Richard Peck, the Vancouver lawyer who represented Sharpe in the two-day hearing last January.

“Sometimes the court takes this long. I really don’t have any idea, you’re asking me to divine. I just can’t [tell you when the decision will come out].

“There are very significant issues in this case.”

During the hearing, a British Columbia government lawyer argued that private kiddie porn collections are used to “groom and urge” paedophiles, and that portraits of, or writings about, children and sex – even make-believe sketches – must remain illegal.

A lower British Columbia court overturned the law in 1999, stating that erotic works of the imagination should not be banned. One judge called the kiddie porn legislation “one step removed from criminalizing simply objectionable thoughts.”

(Others have argued the law makes illegal safer-sex information targeted at teens.)

The kiddie porn used as evidence in BC court includes a couple of dozen photographs, some drawings, and pages and pages of writings.

All the images are of males, most of them teenagers posing by themselves, sometimes erect, sometimes touching themselves. Most of the boys in the pictures appear to be between 14 and 18.

There’s a line drawing of a hairless angel with a hard-on.

And police officers continue to charge people with the simple possession of child porn – despite the lower court ruling it unconstitutional.

“Oh sure,” says Peck. “I believe they are [charging]. But those cases will be on hold pending the outcome. It’s a question of practicality, if they charge someone in the hopes [it will later stick].”

It’s the same story in Toronto.

“What our officers would do is, after seizing whatever, they would still lay charges after consulting with the Crown attorney,” says Insp Bruce Smollett, the new head of corporate communications for the Toronto Police Service.

“The laws are on the books until the Supreme Court rules.”

Smollett says that while lower court rulings are taken into account, they’re not the be-all and end-all. The communications branch has sent out several press releases in the last year announcing charges against men for simply possessing child pornography.

Sharpe’s legal battle has made him the object of nation-wide scorn and harassment. There were anti-Sharpe demonstrators at his Supreme Court Of Canada hearing, and a British Columbia judge received a death threat after ruling in Sharpe’s favour.

Sharpe came out later in life; he’s a senior citizen and the divorced father of two boys.

He didn’t even have a lawyer until his case went to the Supreme Court Of Canada.

“He self-represented throughout [the lower courts],” says Peck of his client. “He sought counsel but he couldn’t get people to represent him.”

Does Peck think he’s hurt himself by representing Sharpe? “No, I’m just doing my job.”

– With files from Xtra West