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N.L. man found not guilty of possessing child pornography in sex doll trial

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A Newfoundland man has been found not guilty of possessing child pornography after a judge determined it was not proven he knew the sex doll he ordered was child-sized.

Judge Mark Pike said he accepted expert testimony that the doll was child pornography, and said that Kenneth Harrisson’s stated reasons for ordering it did not ring true.

But the judge concluded the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Harrisson knew what was in the box delivered to his St. John’s home in 2013.

During the provincial court trial, Harrisson testified that he meant to order a lifelike, adult-sized sex doll for companionship to replace his son, who died in infancy decades earlier.

Pike said Thursday said Harrisson’s explanation was far-fetched, but he was left with too many doubts about what Harrisson saw on the web page the day he ordered it.

“The reason offered by Harrisson for ordering the doll is incredible and doesn’t make sense to me, however this does not mean that the Crown has met the burden of proof,” Pike said on Thursday.

“I must ensure that I don’t confuse the question of who to believe with the question of whether there’s reasonable doubt.”

The unusual case has been working its way through the courts for years. It is believed to be the first trial in Canada dealing with child pornography charges involving a sex doll.

The case was poised to set a precedent around what constitutes child pornography when no real child is involved.

Harrisson, 54, was found not guilty of possessing child pornography and mailing obscene material. He was also acquitted on two charges under the federal Customs Act of smuggling and possession of prohibited goods.

Harrisson had ordered the doll from Japan in 2013, but it was intercepted on its way to his St. John’s home.

Harrisson had testified that he did a Google search of the term “sex doll” and chose the photo that showed the most “male-like” face to resemble his son who would have been around 25 in 2013.

He said the doll delivered to his home was not what he ordered because he meant to order an adult doll named “Carol.” He said he did not intend to have sex with the doll.

A Crown lawyer argued in closing submissions that the doll delivered was three-dimensional child pornography.

Canada’s Criminal Code defines child pornography as “a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means” that shows a person who is, or depicted as being, under 18 years old engaged in explicit sexual activity.

Pike said Thursday he accepted the evidence from forensic psychiatrist Peter Collins, who testified in 2017 that the doll was “prepubescent” and was advertised as child pornography.

Pike said the item met the criminal code definition, but said criminal possession comes down to knowledge.

Much of Collins’ testimony hinged on the way the dolls were advertised online, on a website that sold adult and childlike sex dolls. Pike said Thursday that there was no evidence presented as to whether the web page Harrisson viewed was the same one viewed by the police and Collins.

Pike said the fact that Harrisson offered his computer for a police search but one was never carried out made it impossible to determine what he saw on the website, how he came across the product or what he meant to order.

“A search was never carried out, so it cannot be determined by examining the computer he used by which the process by which the doll was ordered and whether he at any time knew the child doll was displayed with crucial descriptors that formed the doll’s characterization as child pornography.”

Pike noted that the doll delivered to Harrisson’s home did not exactly match any of the dolls on the Japanese website, though it most closely resembled the dolls marketed as children.

He said Harrisson’s actions around the time of ordering the doll were inconsistent with how a guilty person would typically act, as he used his own name on the order and was co-operative with police.

The judge said these inconsistencies raised doubts of Harrisson’s guilt.

Harrisson was silent but smiling as he left the court with his legal team.

Outside court, defence lawyer Bob Buckingham described the six-year long case as a “long, drawn-out battle” that has been stressful and draining on his client. Harrisson collapsed on the stand during his testimony.

“Mr. Harrisson wishes to say he is relieved that this matter is over with and that his advice to people is to be careful as to what you order online,” Buckingham said with Harrisson by his side on Thursday.

Buckingham said Collins’ evidence has made people judge Harrisson without knowing the full story, and he criticized Pike for not detailing the reasons why he accepted Collins’ evidence.

“This decision provides no assistance in further decisions down the road. None at all,” Buckingham said. “This decision was decided on the basis of possession and the law with respect to possession, as opposed to whether it met … the definition of child pornography itself.”

Linda Beaudoin, a self-described advocate for children who travelled from Ontario for the judgement, engaged Buckingham in a heated back-and-forth as the lawyer spoke with reporters, asking Buckingham if he “had ever been called a pedophile sympathizer.”

Buckingham called her comments an insult and said she showed “a lack of understanding about defence counsel” and his legal career.

“He’s an innocent man of the charges,” Buckingham said of Harrisson at the end of the exchange.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press



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Ethics commissioner ready to testify to committee today: NDP critic

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Mario Dion

OTTAWA — Ethics commissioner Mario Dion could testify to a parliamentary committee as early as Wednesday afternoon about his findings on the prime minister’s breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, the NDP’s Charlie Angus says.

But whether the House of Commons ethics committee moves ahead with the study of Dion’s report rests in the hands of the Liberal MPs who hold the majority of seats.

Dion had said he would make himself available to testify when MPs meet, but Angus said he spoke to the chair of the committee to ensure that would be an option.

Angus said Dion would likely appear by video conference.

“I am hoping, and I expect that, Mr. Dion will be able to provide testimony … and then we can finally get some clear answers,” Angus said.

Dion released a scathing report last week that concluded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau breached a section of the ethics code by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to end criminal proceedings on corruption charges against the Montreal engineering giant.

For his part, Trudeau has said he disagrees with, but accepts, Dion’s findings and was acting to protect Canadian jobs.

In his report, Dion also disclosed that he couldn’t get all the information he required, as potential witnesses and Trudeau’s office claimed cabinet confidence stopped from them from sharing everything they knew.

“This is a very important report, it is a very damning report and it also raises questions about the fundamental powers of the ethics commissioner in terms of the interference and obstruction that was laid in his path by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council,” Angus said.

Trudeau has shown a complete disregard for the rule of law, Angus added, noting that’s what got him into trouble: “He needs to really grow up and assume the role of prime minister here and not just a public figure who thinks he’s impervious to accountability.”

Conservatives and New Democrats pushed for the emergency committee meeting to be held early Wednesday afternoon. Agreeing to invite Dion to appear would mean keeping the SNC-Lavalin controversy in the headlines as MPs gear up for the Oct. 21 election.

On Wednesday morning, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer reiterated his call for the Liberals to put partisan interests ahead of their own and let the study proceed.  

“We will learn today whether or not scandal and corruption is limited to just the Liberal party’s leader in the form of Justin Trudeau, or whether or not this rot has infected the entire Liberal caucus and the entire Liberal party,” Scheer said at an event in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Scheer said that if the study fails to go ahead, he hopes to be able to convince voters to hold Trudeau accountable on voting day this October.

“We cannot have a lawmaker who is a lawbreaker.”

Trudeau has suggested voters want to move on.

A new poll suggests Dion’s report hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall, nor has it helped the Conservatives.

The Leger poll suggests the two parties were locked in a dead heat, with the support of 33 per cent of voters, as they jockey for position at the starting gate for the Oct. 21 vote.

Liberal support was unchanged from last month, despite Dion’s report, and Conservative support was down three percentage points from last month, despite the party’s best efforts to re-ignite public outrage over the affair.

The online survey of 1,535 eligible voters was conducted Aug. 16-19 for The Canadian Press and weighted to reflect the makeup of Canada’s population; it cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

It is unhelpful to apply the frame of a political horse race to a question of the rule of law, Angus said.

“I’m less concerned about whether Mr. Trudeau is up one point or down one point,” he said. “My concern is if he interfered with a prosecution and we have to have some manner of accountability, whether it is him or for future prime ministers. Otherwise, we don’t have the rule of law in this country.”

The Canadian Press

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Country music star George Canyon to run for Tories in Nova Scotia

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George Canyon

OTTAWA — One of Nova Scotia’s best-known country music stars is walking on to the political stage.

George Canyon has announced he’s running as a Conservative candidate in the riding of Central Nova in the upcoming federal election.

His name was added to the Tory roster after existing candidate Roger MacKay dropped out this week, for what he said were “personal reasons.”

Canyon has won several Juno and Canadian Country Music Association awards for his work, and currently sings the national anthem at Calgary Flames games.

While his star is sure to add to the Conservative shine for this election, the riding is well acquainted with being a home for political stars.

Brian Mulroney ran from there to get a seat in the House of Commons after becoming leader of the Progressive Conservatives in the 1980s, and for over a decade it was home to Peter MacKay, who served as a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May also attempted a run for the seat in 2008, but lost to MacKay.

He held the riding until stepping down ahead of the 2015 election, and the seat fell into the hands of Liberals as part of a red sweep of the Atlantic provinces.

But the Tories count Central Nova among the seats they intend to recapture this fall, thanks in part to what they say are candidates with strong ties to the area, including three local members of the Nova Scotia legislature.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has made multiple stops in the Atlantic provinces already this summer, and for his part, Canyon said he’s eager to get going.

“Over the next nine weeks, I’m going to wear the soles out of my boots as I work hard to show people here the type of representative and advocate I will be for them.”

The federal election takes place on Oct. 21.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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