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Saturday, January 23, 2016

A bittersweet victory for free expression in Canada

The Not Guilty verdict in Gregory Alan Ellott's trial for criminal harassment of two radical feminists on twitter, is a slightly upbeat note concluding a sour fugue.

The verdict by Justice Brent Knazan is less an indication that justice prevails in Canada than that justice has not gone completely batshit crazy. Although in the three years preceding the verdict, you could easily be forgiven for making the opposite assumption.

In a nutshell, Elliott exchanged twitter insults with Stephanie Guthgrie and Heather Reilly, and he used the same hashtags as them. The two women, who seem to have a history of looking for reasons for which they can become offended, complained to police that they felt threatened and harassed by Elliott's tweets. All the parties agree that Elliott never actually threatened any harm to the women and there was no form of sexual harassment in his tweets.

A sane person familiar with the workings of online media would have let it go there. But in one of the most disgraceful acts by Canadian police and prosecutors in this decade, they decided to pursue charges against Elliott. As a result, his career was ruined, and he became massively indebted in legal costs.

Whether or not Gregory Alan Elliott is obnoxious is not an issue. The Internet breeds obnoxiousness, and Elliott's was apparently not vastly greater than his accusers. Not Guilty may keep him out of jail, but the offence against justice was that this case was even considered for trial, let alone having gone through a three-year criminal process.

The most positive aspect of this matter was that Justice Knazan's verdict was a precedent which may discourage prosecutors and police from using the justice system as a tool for political censorship. But complete justice has not yet happened in case of Gregory Alan Elliott's twitter arrest, prosecution and trial. That won't happen until a full investigation of the cozy relationship between the police, some of the most disgraceful members of Toronto's City Council and the accusers, and the resulting abuse of the system is investigated, exposed, and those responsible punished accordingly.

1 comment:

Man with Hat said...

Made it to the end. Skimmed a lot. Never having used Twitter it seems a good primer. From my own experience and knowing that of Mark Harding RIP, as Ezra says the process is the punishment. Good luck to Mr. Elliot.