Globe and Mail

Why is he still in jail?

Tuesday, October 23, 2001
The Globe and Mail

Like any other good reporter, Robert (Rosie) Rowbotham of CBC Radio burrows into places his audience may never have seen. Jail, for instance. But his best story may be the one he has uncovered inadvertently: a legal system that knowingly keeps an innocent man behind bars.

Mr. Rowbotham, on parole from a marijuana-smuggling conviction, was charged in August with uttering threats against and assaulting his common-law wife, who had called 911 to say he had beaten her. His parole was suspended and he was sent to jail to await his trial.

But his spouse, a convicted perjurer, told the Ontario Court of Justice that she had made up the whole story, and had been trying in vain to make that point for weeks to the Crown and police. Understandably, legal authorities accustomed to women trying to protect their men, even the ones who assault them, did not want to back down. It was only after she asserted repeatedly in court that she had been in a stupor of drugs and drink, and had been angry at "Rosie" for threatening to leave her over her substance abuse, that the Crown asked the judge to dismiss the charges. The judge told him he was "free to go on these charges."

Not so fast. Mr. Rowbotham was then taken into custody because his parole was still suspended. Nearly two weeks later, he sits in maximum-security Millhaven Penitentiary in Kingston, awaiting a parole hearing in late November at which a panel will assess the risk to society of his release.

The real risk is that by holding Mr. Rowbotham after his acquittal, the corrections authorities are becoming a law unto themselves and imperilling the rights and freedoms of Canadians. And according to Mr. Rowbotham's lawyer, John Hill, he is not the only one in this situation.

The Correctional Service of Canada should let Mr. Rowbotham go immediately, and the Canadian government should rewrite the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again. Mr. Rowbotham doesn't need any more material.

Copyright 2001 Globe Interactive, a division of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.