Wednesday, July 9, 1997

Lindsay Kines

p. B1

Abbotsford police censured for plan to issue names of johns

Abbotsford police came under stinging criticism Tuesday for their plan to release the names of men nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a prostitute.

Simon Fraser University criminologist John Lowman called the move an abuse of the criminal justice system, while the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said police are trying to punish people who have yet to be found guilty of a crime.

"Quite frankly, I think this brings disrepute to the whole of the criminal justice system and makes it look like a farce," said Lowman, who has done extensive studies of prostitution.

Abbotsford police have said they will release Friday the names of 43 men charged with communicating with a person for the purpose of obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute. the men were arrested during a one-week sting operation last month when a female undercover officer posed as a prostitute on Clearbrook Road.

Abbotsford media relations Constable Elly Sawchuk said Tuesday police decided to release the names of the accused men as a deterrent.

"Basically, all we're doing is facilitating a public document to the media," she said. "It's up to them what they want to do with it."

p. B3.

Abbotsford merchants complained of prostitutes

"But we felt it was important in this case because of the problems associated with prostitution, especially in a small area, that we were dealing with in Abbotsford."

Police have received complaints about prostitutes from merchants on Clearbrook Road and in the Meadowfair Mall. Police said although prostitution has been in Abbotsford for years, it became a more obvious problem in recent months, with estimates of six or more women working the streets.

Sawchuk also said the decision to release the men's names was based, partly, on public health concerns. She said many prostitutes are intravenous drug users and consequently run the risk of contracting the virus that causes AIDS.

The police, she said, felt it was important to warn the men's families about potential risks.

News outlets are wrestling with the question of whether to publish the men's names. The Abbotsford News has yet to make a final decision.

Sue Ridout, executive producer of CBC's television news operation in Vancouver, said she would not normally run a long list of names on a newscast anyway. But there are also ethical reasons against doing so.

"I guess the question I would ask myself is: 'Is it essential for the community to feel safe to know the names of these people?' I don't think it meets the test.

"I also think that these people are charged, not convicted. I would have problems with the ethical ramifications of printing the name of someone and ostensibly ruining their personal life, and perhaps their professional life, with a charge that is not yet proven."

Sawchuk said Abbotsford consulted with Vancouver city police, who earlier this year, released the names of 30 men charged with prostitution-related offences. Several of the men were subsequently named on CKNW radio and The Province newspaper. A firefighter, who faces charges, intends to argue his right to privacy and to a presumption of innocence were violated by the Vancouver police department.

Kay Stockholder of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said Tuesday the police of releasing names "seems quite wrong to us. It's essentially using this public shame as a form of punishment when they're not even convicted."

Stockholder also dismissed the public health argument as illegitimate.

"There isn't any reason to think that they've had unprotected sex or that every prostitute is carrying HIV," she said.

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Created: July 9, 1997
Last modified: March 21, 1998

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