Globe and Mail

Broadcaster freed from jail after domestic-violence case

Saturday, October 27, 2001
By GRAEME SMITH
The Globe and Mail

Well-known CBC broadcaster Robert (Rosie) Rowbotham earned his freedom and a round of applause from his friends yesterday as a parole board confirmed a court's ruling that he did not assault his housemate.

The decision, at a hearing inside Millhaven Penitentiary near Kingston, Ont., overruled a formal recommendation by parole officers who had wanted to keep Mr. Rowbotham in jail.

Parole-board members asked many questions about Mr. Rowbotham's relationship with Valerie Phillips, with whom he is living, during the three-hour hearing, his lawyer, John Hill, said.

"They ended up concluding that there was no spousal assault," Mr. Hill said. "They found no evidence that this actually happened, just like the court ruled."

A court dismissed domestic-abuse charges against Mr. Rowbotham on Oct. 11, after Ms. Phillips explained that she was drunk, drugged and depressed when she called 911 to say she'd been attacked.

But the acquittal didn't mean Mr. Rowbotham could immediately go free. He was on parole for marijuana smuggling at the time of his arrest and he had to persuade the parole board it would be safe to release him.

The board received a seven-page report from Mr. Rowbotham's parole officers, who said he should be held because Ms. Phillips's behaviour was "a classic victim posture."

Mr. Rowbotham's legal team presented letters of support from his prominent friends, including CBC personalities Shelagh Rogers, Avril Benoit and Michael Enright.

The board released Mr. Rowbotham on the condition that he attend an assessment by a psychologist to confirm that he's not in an abusive relationship, and that he seek family counselling with Ms. Phillips. He'll remain on parole for his original drug conviction until June.

Mr. Hill said the case has publicized the fact that many people face what amounts to two trials if they're arrested while on parole, because they must be found not guilty by both a court and a parole board.

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