Thursday, December 21, 2000

Canadian Press

Alberta child-prostitution law upheld

EDMONTON — Alberta's controversial law in the fight against child prostitution was upheld in a decision released Thursday.

Last summer the law, which allows authorities to detain child prostitutes without charges was declared unconstitutional by Family Court Judge Karen Jordan because she said it did not allow teens the right to answer the allegations or the right to a judicial appeal.

But Thursday's decision by Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Rooke quashed that.

"Judge Jordan did not have the jurisdiction to strike down certain parts of the [Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution] Act," Judge Rooke 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."

Judge Rooke's decision is a victory for the Alberta government, which has steadfastly defended a law it created to help get child prostitutes off the streets.

Despite Judge Jordan's ruling this past summer, police continued to apprehend child prostitutes to safe houses for up to five days.

The province amended the law last month to address some of the concerns expressed by Judge Jordan in her July ruling.

Suspected child prostitutes in Alberta can be detained without charges for up to seven weeks.

But they must now be informed in writing about the reasons for their confinement and to their right to legal representation. The time period for confinement has been increased to five days. Authorities can also apply to extend the confinement for two additional periods of 21 days each.

The idea is to protect a child prostitute from a pimp and give the child time to get some help to get off the street permanently.

Since the act was proclaimed, more than 427 apprehensions have been made involving 194 girls and boys. Most were aged 15 and 16, but there were several 12 year-olds.

Other provinces including Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have enacted similar laws or have expressed interest in Alberta's legislation.

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