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In prostitution case, Crown's witnesses characterized as liars and alarmists Add to ...

Crown lawyers at a challenge to the country's prostitution law were accused Wednesday of creating their witness list from a ragtag group of anti-prostitution zealots who roam the globe misinforming legislators and judges.

Lawyer Alan Young said that many of the Crown's experts have a history of lying to foreign legislators, conducting simplistic research, fabricating scare stories and employing absurd rhetoric to help stall the global liberalization of prostitution laws.

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Mr. Young, who teaches at York University's Osgoode Hall law school, said that the Crown witnesses "have gone around the world trying to convince governments that they are on the road to hell. Regrettably, the Crown has to live with the people they have found, but these are not credible witnesses."

Expert witnesses from both sides have all been examined and cross-examined in the case. Their testimony is in dozens of volumes of transcript that Ontario Superior Court Judge Susan Himel will examine in deciding the case.

Three prostitutes launched the challenge in the hope of striking down legal provisions that prohibit procuring, communicating with clients and keeping a brothel.

Wrapping up his final argument Wednesday, Mr. Young urged Judge Himel to find that the laws have caused untold harm to sex workers without doing anything to curb the nuisance factor of street soliciting.

Mr. Young said that one Crown witness was denounced for dishonesty by legislatures in both Scotland and New Zealand. He said that another witness spread misinformation about specific cases of murdered prostitutes to make it appear as if brothel workers live in as much danger as do street prostitutes.

"That is scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideological reasons," Mr. Young remarked.

He said that another witness - an academic from Quebec - described seeing prostitutes in a Nevada brothel in a cage. In fact, the "cage" turned out to be a fence erected around the legalized brothel to keep undesirables out, and the witness conceded that he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, Mr. Young said.

"To talk about women being kept in caged areas is disgraceful evidence to put before a court," he said.

To strike down the law, Judge Himel must find that it constitutes an unjustifiable threat to the life, liberty and security of sex workers.

Mr. Young said that police across Western Canada are searching for large numbers of missing prostitutes, women who would not have been as easy to target had the law allowed them to work in regulated, secure brothels.

The applicants claim that Parliament passed the prostitution provisions hastily and without proper study almost 30 years ago, and that three parliamentary committees have since concluded that they are sorely wanting.

"Show me how you are achieving your goals when every government report since 1985 says that you are not," Mr. Young said. "You can see the inertia and fear that Parliament has. The best they can do is set up yet another committee. But we don't need another committee."

 

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