Friday, December 22, 2000

Dan Palmer

Child hooker law upheld

Queen's Bench justice quashes judge's ruling

Children's Services Minister Iris Evans is pleased Alberta's original law to fight child prostitution was upheld in a court decision released yesterday.

"This is a day when the sun is shining for the children of Alberta," Evans said. "I always believed we were on the side of the angels on this one."

The Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act, which allows authorities to detain child prostitutes without charges for three days, was declared unconstitutional by family court Judge Karen Jordan last summer.

She ruled it didn't allow teens the right to answer the allegations or the right to a judicial appeal.

But Justice John Rooke of Court of Queen's Bench quashed that with his ruling.

"Judge Jordan did not have the jurisdiction to strike down certain parts of the (act)," he wrote.

"Jordan was in error in holding that the procedures employed by the act to confine children in need of protection, although they did infringe on the liberty interests of the children, were contrary to the principles of fundamental justice."

However, the province amended the law last month to address some of Jordan's concerns.

"The amendments made a good law even better," said Justice Minister David Hancock.

Detained children must now be informed in writing about the reasons for their confinement and the right to legal representation.

Children can also be detained for five days when first picked up off the street, up from three days. Authorities can then apply to extend the confinement for two additional periods of 21 days each.

The amendments are expected to become law this spring, but neither minister would say whether that would happen before or after an expected election call in Evans said increasing the time children can be detained will give authorities more time to find proper help for an abused child, which should prevent children from being apprehended more than once if they get adequate treatment the first time.

Since the act was proclaimed, 454 apprehensions have been made involving 222 girls and boys — including 91 kids who were apprehended more than once.

Harry Van Harten, a Calgary lawyer who represented two 17-year-old girls who challenged the law in September 1999, said he doubts his clients will appeal the ruling.

"I'm disappointed in the decision, but it doesn't matter because the legislation has been changed," he said.

"There is not going to be an appeal."

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Created: December 22, 2000
Last modified: January 17, 2001
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
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Email: csis@walnet.org