Last edited: March 26, 2005

Goliath’s Charges Stayed

Xtra, February 2, 2005
491 Church Street, Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2C6, Canada
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By Amy Steele

Alberta Justice has dropped all charges resulting from a 2002 police raid on the Calgary bathhouse Goliath’s Saunatel because the Crown wasn’t confident it could prove that the sexual activity observed in the bathhouse violated community standards of tolerance.

Crown Prosecutor David Torske announced in court on Feb 2 that the charges were being dropped because there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.

“A significant proportion [of Calgarians], 55 percent... indicated they would tolerate this sort of facility in their community,” said Torske, citing a survey by University Of Calgary anthropology PhD student Bruce Freeman, which looked at community attitudes toward bathhouses amongst other businesses.

Torske says the reason the Crown waited so long to stay the charges was that no Alberta court has had to deal with charges resulting from a bathhouse raid since the 1980s and so there was a need to determine how attitudes toward bathhouses have changed in the last two decades.

“We had an area of law that hadn’t been subject to recent consideration, certainly not by courts in Alberta, and somehow we had to determine what current Canadians... think about those issues,” he says.

Local activists are hailing it as a victory but say they’re still concerned bathhouse raids could happen in the future in Calgary.

Goliath’s Saunatel owner Darrell Zakreski, manager Lonnie Nomeland and employees Peter Jackson and Gerald Rider were charged with being keepers of a common bawdyhouse after the December 2002 raid. A bawdyhouse is defined as any public place where prostitution or indecent acts are occurring. The trial was supposed to resume this week.

None of the accused were in court at the time that the charges were stayed, but their lawyer John Bascom says the two years of court proceedings have been traumatic.

“It was a great deal of stress on all of my clients,” says Bascom. “These are individuals who have never been involved with the law previously. They were arrested, brought before the courts... and they’re quite relieved it’s over.”

Bascom says he’s hopeful that the stay of proceedings in the Goliath’s case will prevent any future bathhouse prosecutions from occurring in Calgary.

“I would hope that this particular activity by the police would not happen in the future,” he says. “Whatever happens between consenting adults is their business.”

However, Torske says the Crown has not ruled out prosecuting bathhouse cases in the future and he maintains the police did nothing wrong in their investigation.

“This decision shouldn’t be taken as any reflection that the Calgary Police Service did anything wrong in this investigation,” says Torske. “This decision does not reflect that Alberta Justice will not look at prosecuting similar cases in the future. We won’t speculate on that. On each case we’ll look at the facts and we’ll come to a conclusion on each case on its own merits.”

Stephen Lock, a Calgary activist and board member of Egale Canada, says he’s hoping that the Crown won’t exercise that option.

“Honestly there is some concern there. I’m hoping the Calgary Police Service understands the implications and... the errors here and I’m hoping they don’t just do it differently next time,” says Lock. “I’m hoping that they understand that what happens between consenting adults in a private environment is not a criminal concern.”

Meanwhile Terry Haldane, the man who was charged as a found-in for being in the bathhouse when the raid occurred but whose charges have since been dropped, says he is still planning to proceed with a constitutional challenge of the bawdyhouse legislation under which he and the four other men were charged.

“This changes nothing for me. I plan on still challenging the bawdyhouse laws that allow police to break into a private place... and interfere with... social, perhaps some sexual activity going on between consenting adults. That is just unforgivable,” he says. “I fully intend on challenging those bawdyhouse laws in the criminal code.”


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