Last edited: February 05, 2005

Crown Abandons Bathhouse Charges

Changing moral standards cited in decision

Calgary Herald, February 3, 2005

By Daryl Slade

Evolving community standards were among the reasons listed by prosecutors for staying charges Wednesday against four owner-operators of a gay bathhouse raided in southwest Calgary in 2002.

Crown prosecutor David Torske said that was one of a number of factors taken into account in determining there was not a reasonable likelihood of conviction in a type of case not prosecuted in Alberta since the early 1980s.

“Society in general and everyone would agree Canada has changed since the last prosecutions (in Edmonton),” Torske said outside court.

“The law has to change with the times. Parliament has specifically addressed that in this offence by saying current, contemporary Canadian standards are what matters in determining if the community standards of tolerance have been exceeded or not.”

Provincial court Judge Terry Semenuk had dismissed a pretrial constitutional application by defence lawyer John Bascom last May to rule as inadmissible evidence found by city police in the Dec. 12, 2002, raid at Goliath’s Bath House in the 300 block of 17th Avenue S.W. following a two-month undercover operation.

The next step was to establish what were the community’s standards of tolerance and whether they had been exceeded, in order for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that criminal offences had occurred.

Bruce Freeman, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Calgary, found in a survey as part of his multi-faceted PhD thesis shared with the court, that the majority of people in the area around the facility were tolerant of such activities.

“Overall, there was tolerance of the bathhouse, but the community is mixed in this particular issue,” said Freeman. “There are people who object to anything gay or lesbian; 25 per cent of respondents don’t want it.

“Twenty per cent of citizens put men having sex in a gay bathhouse at the extreme response by police to complaints. Another 20 per cent said there should be no response and 60 per cent were in the middle.”

Darrell Michael Zakreski, owner of the establishment since it opened in 1986, had been jointly charged with co-owners Peter John Jackson and Gerald Stanley Rider with unlawfully keeping a bawdy house. Lonnie Lynn Nomeland, the manager, was accused of having control of premises used as a common bawdy house.

Bascom said his clients, who did not attend the brief hearing Wednesday, were very pleased their two-year ordeal is over. He said the prosecution could revive the charges over the next year, but that rarely happens.

“It shows great co-operation between the Crown and defence, which resulted in this excellent ending of the case for my clients,” Bascom said. “In this case, we provided to the prosecution all of our evidence that would support the fact that community standards of tolerance would not be offended by this activity—and the prosecution reacted appropriately, I believe.”

The decision also came as a relief to the gay community, albeit after two years of anger and frustration.

“This (stay) shows as long as we’re not having sex at high noon on the corner of 8th Avenue and 1st Street, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s concern what has occurred between two consenting adults,” said Stephen Lock, board member of Egale Canada (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere).

“It’s unfortunate it has taken two years of their (accused’s) lives to reach the decision we reached two years ago.”

Calgary police spokesman Robert Palmer said his department had no input in the decision to stay charges.

“The service received a complaint of activity at Goliath’s. We investigated and after consultation with the Crown’s office laid the charges,” said Palmer. “Our role effectively ends once the charges are laid and the other side of the judicial system takes over. So we don’t have a position on this decision.”

Torske said while a significant amount of resources and time had been committed to the case by police, the judge and both lawyers, it was not wasted. “This is frankly what was needed to be done in this case,” he said. “To arrive at a proper and fair conclusion required a lot of effort on the part of everyone involved.”

Torske also noted charges against a dozen men found in the premises as customers had their cases dealt with by alternative measures shortly after they were charged. All completed their requirements and do not have criminal convictions.

Another customer found in Goliath’s, who had intended to fight his charge to the Supreme Court of Canada, had his case stayed late last year.

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