Saturday, October 10, 1998

Thomas Claridge
Courts Reporter, Newmarket, Ont.

p. A3.

Judge sidesteps sadomasochism issue

Terri-Jean Bedford talks to reporters after being found guilty of running a bawdy house. The Globe and Mail

Bid for stay of proceedings fails as Ontario dominatrix convicted of running a bawdy house

Professional dominatrix Terri Jean Bedford is frustrated.

After being found guilty yesterday of running a common bawdy house at her bungalow in the Toronto suburb of Thornhill, Ms. Bedford said: "The judge still hasn't said what I can or can't do."

In his ruling , Judge Roy Bogusky of the Ontario Court's Provincial Division sidestepped completely the initial issue between the Crown and defence -- whether sadomasochistic acts constitute sexual activity.

In brief oral reasons delivered nearly six weeks after the closing submissions on the case, Judge Bogusky based his finding on evidence showing that the activity at least occasionally involved Ms. Bedford and her employees touching customers' genitals.

The judgement did not directly address a contention by defence lawyer Alan Young that for a conviction there must be evidence that sexual activity was more than occasional, but the judge said he regarded the house's "Erotica Room," where sexual touching occurred, as the "backbone of the business."

The case had been portrayed by Mr. Young, an Osgood Hall law professor, as the first of its kind in Canada, though one in New York State ended with a court concluding that sadomasochistic acts are not a form of sexual activity.

Most of yesterday's hearing was taken up with an unsuccessful bid by the defence for a stay of proceedings, based on the conduct of York Regional Police.

Mr. Young said the police response to a single complaint -- from a neighbour who had noticed an advertisement in NOW magazine for the Madame de Sade's House of Erotica -- culminated in a raid by 15 officers in September of 1994.

Describing it as what you might expect in a raid on a motorcycle gang's clubhouse, Mr. Young said it led not only to his client's arrest, but also to a "massive overseizure" of virtually all the contents of the nine-bedroom bungalow. The evidence at trial showed that the occupants "were all treated with the utmost disrespect and contempt" by the officers, who had used "excessive force against a few women 'armed' with whips."

He said the Crown witness whose evidence has been accepted by Judge Bogusky, an employee known professionally as Princess, had supported Ms. Bedford's complaint that she was assaulted and strip-searched.

Asserting that the search warrant authorizing the raid had been obtained for an improper purpose, Mr. Young said the furnishings were removed "to put Ms. Bedford out of business before any trial.

The seizure included ordinary living-room furniture, a chandelier and even a Webster's dictionary, none of which had been returned for years later, he said. (Although a few items had been admitted as exhibits, none were cited by the judge in his finding of guilt.)

"There must be limits on what police can do in a search," Mr. Young said, noting that the alleged offence is punishable by a maximum of two years in jail, and first offenders are often given alternatives to jail time.

He said the evidence showed that Ms. Bedford was pushed, punched and sat upon by one officer "as if she was a doormat," and that another officer, on learning that "Princess" had not been paid that day, had given her $50 from the houses's petty-cash fund.

"That's theft," the lawyer said, adding that three or four hours had passed before Ms. Bedford was allowed to call a lawyer.

Noting that one police witness admitted he had reprimanded one officer for improper behaviour during the search, Mr. Young said the police "regarded this serious invasion of privacy as a trip through an amusement park."

In his ruling, Judge Bogusky said the raid might have involved "overkill" and conceded that Ms. Bedford had received "shabby" treatment. However, he said the requested stay was not an appropriate remedy, and suggested such a remedy might come next Friday when he passes sentence.

Mr. Young said the Crown is seeking a nine-month jail term.

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

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