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R v. Williams I

WRITER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, SOLIPSIST, FALLIBILIST

Statement of Edward L. Greenspan, Q.C. on the occasion of
Mr. Williams’ first acquittal, November 30, 2000

Every day in Canada, peace officers conclude there are reasonable and probable grounds to lay charges under the Criminal Code. Every day Crown Attorneys conclude there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. Of course, the Crown’s decision is arrived at without knowing what a defendant may say by way of defence. But it has never been the law that, in every one of those circumstances, charges should be proceeded with each and every time. The prosecution is not always automatically continued in every case where there is some evidence support proceeding with criminal charges.

It was best put by two Attorneys General of England, Sir John Simon and Sir Hartly Shawcross, both speaking in the House of Commons. “There is no greater nonsense talked about the Attorney General’s duty than the suggestion that in all cases the Attorney General ought to prosecute merely because he or she thinks there is what lawyer’s call ‘a case’. It is not true, and no one who has held the office supposes that it is.”

T he ultimate consideration is always the public interest and whether any injury may be caused by the administration of justice.

We are grateful that Mr. Taylor has accepted the responsibility to end this prosecution. His decision is in the highest traditions of the Crown. The fact is that it is not in the interest of justice to proceed with this case. First of all, it is our view that Mr. Williams would have established his innocence in a full trial. Secondly, Mr. Williams has always recognized that the French and Mahaffy families suffered an unspeakable loss. It goes without saying that the hearts of everyone in Canada go out to them. What happened to their children is the worst nightmare of every parent in this country.

Stephen Williams is a writer. He wanted to capture that nightmare in a book. He wanted the world to know that Karla Homolka was evil personified, a metaphor for evil. That’s what he wrote. Writing can never be a crime in a free and democratic country.

In my estimation, his book will be a major contribution to the certainty that Karla Homolka will serve every one of the 12 years that she received. No member of the Parole Board who reads Invisible Darkness will ever allow her early release. In large measure, Stephen Williams has been responsible for showing Karla Homolka for what she is. That is what his conduct in about.

We are a democracy because we don’t have trials in secret. We don’t foster publication bans of evidence. We recoil when the public cannot have access to the justice system and court proceedings. At the centre of this case was the risk that for the very first time in our long and great history, a writer could face going to jail for the crime of merely writing. That is something one sees in Iraq, Iran or China.  It is not something that we should ever tolerate in a free and democratic society. That is why, in my view, it is in the interest of justice to halt these proceedings and I applaud Mr. Taylor for ending this prosecution by offering no evidence and having you (Justice David Fairgrieve)enter 2 acquittals.

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