Friday, December 22, 2000

Nova Pierson

Prostitution law upheld

Judge rules teens can be kept in custody

Calgarians trying to get teen hookers off the street are cheering a ruling that upholds a controversial law to keep the kids in safe houses without their consent.

Justice John Rooke's decision was released yesterday, quashing the earlier family court decision to strike down the Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act.

"It's a good news story for kids involved in prostitution and it's a bad day for johns and pimps," said an overjoyed Heather Forsyth, the Tory MLA behind the bill which allows kids to be held for 72 hours.

"I felt it in my heart all along — (the protection act) is the right legislation to help these kids."

Street Teams executive director Simonne Walsh let out a whoop when she learned the judicial review had come out in favour of the ground-breaking legislation.

"Thank God the judicial review saw it," said Walsh, whose group works with teens at risk of prostitution.

"Yes, kids have rights. But when they're being manipulated and brought into a system like prostitution, they need to be protected."

Justice Rooke said in his decision the law doesn't unfairly contravene the rights of children.

'Overriding interest'

"Because they are children, their right to liberty must give way to the overriding interest of protecting their general welfare as long as the procedures employed to do so are fair," he wrote.

Calgary police were still apprehending teen hookers even while the law was reviewed.

But they say the province's new amendments, which came as a result of Judge Karen Jordan's earlier dismissal of the law, will do more to advance their cause.

The changes will actually increase the time young hookers can be held — for a five-day assessment and then a possibility of two, 21-day extensions.

"(Judge Jordan) was part of the judicial system, she is very strong when it comes to children and she had some concern with the legislation — good on her," said vice Det. Len Dafoe.

He said drug addiction, a common problem for the young prostitutes, can't be battled in three days.

On behalf of two 17-year-olds, lawyers Harry Van Harten and Bina Border had challenged the law.

Border said they are disappointed with the decision, but won't appeal since the law is already amended.

"It's better — the kids get a review, they're at least treated as good as a criminal," said Border.

But she said locking up underaged prostitutes does nothing to address the real issue — that men are paying for sex with minors.

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Created: December 22, 2000
Last modified: January 17, 2001
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