The judge who acquitted a New Brunswick blogger of obstructing justice says Charles LeBlanc was merely "plying his trade" at a protest last summer and shouldn't have been arrested.
In his 20-page written decision, Judge William McCarroll noted that LeBlanc was not among the mob ofdemonstrators during the Saint Johnprotest,butwas ina public space taking pictures of the protestersfor his website when he was arrested.
He said LeBlanc is well-known for his blog,well enough that police officers admitted to consulting it to gather intelligence about the conference.
"Mr. LeBlanc was never advised by the police that he would be arrested if he did certain things. He was simply plying his trade, photographing the demonstration for inclusion in his blog when he was arrested," he wrote.
LeBlanc, who writes about poverty and politics on his website, was arrested and pinned to the ground by three police officers outside a business conference last June. A police officer later admitted to deleting a photo of himself from LeBlanc's camera.
LeBlanc maintained he did nothing different from any other journalist covering the event, but was singled out by Sgt. John Parks, the arresting officer.
LeBlanc arrested because he was 'scruffy': police
Parks testified that he arrested LeBlanc partly because he was "scruffy" looking and carrying an unprofessional-looking digital camera. Parks also testified that LeBlanc challenged police authority at the event, and resisted arrest.
However, CBC videotape of the event, entered as evidence by the defence, contradicted police testimony that LeBlanc refused a police order to leave the conference centre andresisted arrest.
McCarroll saidthe picturesproved beyond a reasonable doubt that LeBlanc did nothing wrong.
"There is such a discrepancy between the evidence of Sgt. Parks and the CBC video, that I find it unsafe to convict Mr. LeBlanc," he wrote. "I am not even satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that if Mr. LeBlanc was in fact ordered to leave by Sgt. Parks, he heard or understood the order."
McCarroll also said the officers had no right to seize LeBlanc's digital camera or delete his photo without a search warrant.
Despite that, thejudge did congratulate the three Saint John police officers for maintaining control of a protestwhen "all hell broke loose for a few terrifying moments" and20-30 masked people attempted to storm the doors of the conference centre.
"In spite of my findings in this case, there is one conclusion I have come to beyond any doubt. These courageous officers acted above and beyond the call of duty in preventing a serious breach of peace. If these young masked invaders had succeeded in gaining access to the main meeting room where probably hundreds of delegates were in attendance, God knows what would have happened," he wrote.