Monday, April 20, 1998

Hollie Shaw

p. A8.

Dominatrix's trial presents 'difficult' legal challenge

TORONTO -- A little spanking between consenting adults is more common than most Canadians think, says a lawyer defending a dominatrix who goes on trial today charged with running a bawdy house.

"In 1991, there was an Ann Landers column where a woman wrote in to ask how she could tell her husband that she wanted him to spank her before they had intercourse," George Callahan said.

"And Ann replied that she had many similar queries from her readers, and suggested the woman put the clipping on the fridge to give her husband the hint."

It's been four years since police raided Terri-Jean Bedford's home in Thornhill, north of Toronto, where she catered to her client's elaborate fantasies as Madame de Sade. The nine-bedroom bungalow was ransacked in the raid and Bedford's belongings -- including a casket and a throne -- were seized.

She and three others were charged, but the case was dismissed when it was ruled the charges were too vague and prosecutors refused to specify what Bedford, 39, did to warrant arrest. The Ontario Court of Appeal later overturned the dismissal and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that decision last year.

"I'm just another Canadian woman trying to do her thing," Bedford, who earned $100,000 a year at her trade, said before the Supreme Court ruling.

A person is guilty of keeping a bawdy house if it can be proved * indecent acts or prostitution occurred there. But do consensual bondage, humiliation, spanking, role-playing and cross-dressing * count as indecent acts or prostitution?

Absolutely not, say Bedford's supporters, who have created a defence fund to help defray her legal costs. "This is not Paul Bernardo country. It is safe and occurs between consenting adults," said Robert Dante, publisher of Boudoir Noir, a magazine extolling the sadism and masochism lifestyle.

Alan Young, a law professor and adviser to Bedford's legal team, says it will be difficult for the Crown to prove its case because bawdy house laws aren't specific enough.

Men and women spent anywhere from a half an hour to a week in Bedford's home, living out fantasies they specified in advance. Theme rooms included a classroom, a parlor and a dungeon.

Bedford isn't working in the sex trade anymore but has written a book, Bondage Bungalow Dominatrix, which she's hoping will help recoup her court costs.

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Created: April 26, 1998
Last modified: April 26, 1998

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