Wednesday, August 2, 2000

Canadian Press

Alberta taking risk with child hooker law

EDMONTON — The Alberta Government is exposing police and lawyers to possible litigation by asking them to continue enforcing its controversial child prostitution law, says an Edmonton lawyer.

"It's been struck down and the government says 'We don't care,'" said criminal lawyer Sid Tarrabain. "I think it shows really bad faith on the behalf of the government."

On Friday, a Calgary judge struck down as unconstitutional the law that let authorities pull suspected child prostitutes off the streets and into safe houses for 72 hours.

However the Alberta government said it would continue to enforce the law while awaiting a Court of Queen's Bench review of the judge's ruling.

"When somebody says a law is unconstitutional it means it has no force and effect," said Tarrabain. "If you were arrested without justified cause, you could sue the police for it. They're opening up the authorities to lawsuits."

Marc Barylo, vice-president of Catholic Social Services, said he applauded the government's decision.

"It's worth all the risks," he said. "There's no doubt there's a need for it and there's no doubt it's making a difference to these young people on the streets."

Jo Ann McCartney, a member of the Edmonton police vice unit, said the threat of a lawsuit won't stop her from doing what she believes is right.

"I'm not worried about it. You can always get sued when you're working as a police officer."

Ed O'Neill, past president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, said there's been a lot of buzz at the courthouse about lawsuits arising from the province's decision.

"It just seems to me the provincial government should just step back in view of her ruling and let the matter wind its way through the courts," he said.

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Created: May 24, 2001
Last modified: May 24, 2001
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