Charges Dropped in Lesbian Baths Raid
February 1, 2002
By Jan Prout
SUMMARY: A Toronto judge spent two hours Thursday criticizing Toronto
police for violating the rights of women during a raid on a lesbian bathhouse.
TORONTO—A Toronto judge spent two hours Thursday
criticizing Toronto police for violating the rights of women during a raid on
a lesbian bathhouse.
Justice Peter Hryn dismissed the charges against Jill Hornick and Rachel
Aitcheson, the organizers of the Pussy Palace event, saying the police had put
"the administration of justice in disrepute."
As he rendered his decision in a tiny downtown courtroom, a dozen
supporters of the women burst into cheers and applause.
Five male Toronto police officers entered the Club Toronto baths on Sept.
14, 2000, saying they were acting on a complaint that illegal activity was
For more than an hour the male officers went through the five-story
building, despite the fact the women were in various states of undress. Many
of them were naked.
Two undercover female officers had been in the building prior to the raid
but left when the male uniformed officers arrived.
In the end, no charges were laid. But, after a public outcry about the male
officers roaming through the hallways gawking at the women, police laid two
minor liquor charges against Hornick and Aitcheson.
Justice Hryn said the women had a "reasonable expectation of
privacy." He likened the situation to a male officer conducting a strip
search on a woman.
"The search was carried out in an unreasonable manner," Hryn
"There was no reason why male rather than female officers were used.
... I find the breach to be serious. It was flagrant and outrageous. The
charter violations would shock the conscience of the public," Hryn said
in his decision.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, the lawyer for the Women’s
Bathhouse Committee, Frank Addario, said, "Given that this was an
all-women event and given that it was a highly sexualized environment, it
demanded the use of female police officers."
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects people from unreasonable
searches, including physical searches by opposite-sex police officers.
"We feel quite vindicated in this judgment," said Loralee Gillis
of the Women’s Bath House Committee, which organized the event.
"Hopefully this won’t happen again. That’s our hope."
The women have been left with legal bills totaling more than $60,000. They
have raised about half that amount through fundraising events. The next is
March 26 at Byzantium in the heart of Toronto’s gay village.
Constable Judy Nosworthy, the liaison officer to the GLBT community said
Thursday night: "Now that the court decision has been made, it is time
for the community and the police to begin the healing process."
Nosworthy said: "The GLBT Community Consultative Committee (a group
made up of members of the gay community and the police department) has been
preparing for this moment and is ready to assist in directing the police
service towards a better understanding of our community from the inside
A complaint against the police is still to be heard by Ontario’s Human
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