Friday, October 9, 1998

Hollie Shaw
Canadian Press, Newmarket, Ont.

p. A5.

Will judge restrain suburban dominatrix?

A dominatrix's right to flog and humiliate her clients will be decided today as a protracted and conceivably precedent-setting legal tussle comes to an end.

Terri-Jean Bedford was charged with running a bawdy house in 1994 after police descended on her theme-roomed bungalow in Thornhill, a Toronto suburban.

Her two-week trial this summer, complete with boisterous witnesses and X-rated language, centred on the issue of whether sadomasochistic acts constitute sex.

"No sex took place under my roof," Ms. Bedford, 39, insisted repeatedly.

Her lawyer, Alan Young, a maverick known for taking on seamy and controversial cases, trotted oout a parade of S and M defendes as witnesses, all of whom insisted that sadomasochistic degradation brings them a fulfilment that's much more spiritual than sexual.

Ms. Bedford delighted courtroom spectators in recounting some of her more eccentric customers: a law-school student whom she would threaten with a fly swatter as he buzzed around her home pretending to be an insect, and a man who would spend up to eight hours pretending her was a floor tile.

Even the police were bowled over the theatrical paraphernalia found in Ms. Bedford's home, including a nursery with a giant crib, a torch-lit dungeon and a doctor's examining room.

A key investigator said that several giggling officers donned wigs and indulged in a pretend sword fight with whips during a raid on the bungalow.

The case is unusual beacuse there are several commercial dungeons operating legally in the Toronto area under the proviso that no sex occurs inside the establishment. All of them offer services similar to what Ms. Bedford advertised: cross-dressing, role-playing scenarios and torture games. But it's not clear what practices constitute sex in the world of S and M.

"The judge here could say a certain practice crossed the line and it would be a legal service to all of Canada," said Murray Klippenstieng, a lwyer who has worked on Ms. Bedford's case. "Up until now, there has been no intelligent legal guidance because the subject is has been so taboo."

The judge could also stay away the issue entirely, and simply rule whether certain sexual practices were offered at Ms. Bedford's business, he said.

The case was originally dismissed when it was ruled that the charges against Ms. Bedford were too vague. The Ontario Court of Appeal later overturned the dismissal and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that decisionlast year.

At this summer's trial, Ms. Bedford's case suffered a setback when Judge Roy Bogusky allowed a videotape that showed the dominatrix engaged in conventional sex acts.

Mr. Young had argued the tape shouldn't be allowed as evidence because it was a private tape.

The most damaging testimony came from a former mistress at the house. The woman testified that mistresses would use dildoes on customers and handle clients' genitals to prepare for bondage, activities that Ms. Bedford insisted were strictly forbidden.

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Created: October 12, 1998
Last modified: October 12, 1998

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