BARRIE – Local lawyer Angela McLeod is speaking out after a client got significant jail time for prostitution charges.
By Janis Ramsay Nov 29, 2011 – 6:00 AM
McLeod can’t understand why a nine-month sentence was handed down when the legality of prostitution is under question. In September, a Superior Court judge said there was a problem with the law banning sex trade workers from soliciting clients. Justice Susan Himel struck down the law for safety reasons, but an appeal on the future legality of prostitution hasn’t been resolved. Barrie police Chief Mark Neelin said at the time that officers would continue to monitor the streets for illegal activity. And they’ve kept to that. A sweep was undertaken downtown in late September after residents complained.
McLeod’s 19-year-old client was charged Aug. 10. It was her first time being charged with prostitution. She was caught and charged again just days later. Added to that was a charge for failing to show up in court. McLeod and her client were before the judge Nov. 16 for sentencing. “My client got significant jail time, and it may be something she will appeal,” said McLeod. She said other women charged with the same offence are given 10 days in custody. “A lower court has said (prostitution) is unconstitutional. Because this has been struck down and is under the Court of Appeal, I wanted the court to give her an absolute discharge,” said McLeod. “She got nine months in jail, which is a huge difference. It’s outrageous.” McLeod also argued for her client to be released on the basis that street workers seem to be treated differently than the johns who are also charged. “(My client) was told if she had a clean bill of health and made a $100 charitable donation, she could have her charges withdrawn.”
But the johns don’t have to provide proof of their health condition to be released from custody, said McLeod. “They can pay for the (prostitution education program) or make arrangements with the Crown to make a $100 charitable donation. The consumer is treated differently. Nobody tells his wife what’s happened because his privacy is protected.” McLeod said it’s gender-biased. She said her client didn’t have $100 to give to charity and asking for a health report was unfair.
“She’s a street worker, a disenfranchised woman – you think she’s going to walk into a clinic and say she’s a working prostitute and in order to have her charges withdrawn she needs a physical? How’s that going to go over?” Rather than serve the time at the Central North Correctional Centre, McLeod succeeded in getting the judge to agree to house arrest at the Elizabeth Fry Society. But when the offender left court last week, she didn’t stay at the facility. “I’ve been advised that she’s not there,” said McLeod. “I hope she’s safe.” McLeod said her client said she wanted the help from the Elizabeth Fry Society. McLeod was sad to learn she didn’t follow through. “If in fact she’s on the street, she’s in breach of her conditional sentence order,” said McLeod. “Which means at some point in time she’ll get picked up. She’ll be ordered to serve the balance of her sentence in jail.”