Nova Scotia

Conviction stands for man netted in 'John Be Gone' prostitution sting

A Nova Scotia provincial court judge has dismissed a charter argument by a Cape Breton man caught in a police prostitution sting.

'The police actions were a legitimate response to a need to protect,' judge says

John Mercer is to be sentenced on the prostitution-related offences in November. (Canadian Press)

A Nova Scotia provincial court judge has dismissed a charter argument by a Cape Breton man caught in a police prostitution sting.

John Russell Mercer was one of 27 men arrested last year in a sting Cape Breton Regional Police dubbed Operation John Be Gone. The operation was aimed at cracking down on men searching for prostitutes in Sydney's downtown core.

After the operation, police called a news conference and announced the names, ages and places of residence for all those arrested. Mercer complained that amounted to a public shaming.

Mercer claimed he'd never used a prostitute before, and said his wife and friends found out about his arrest through word of mouth following the news conference.

"The police actions were a legitimate response to a need to protect society's most marginalized and vulnerable members in focusing their attention on the men driving demand," Judge Brian Williston wrote in his decision rejecting Mercer's charter arguments.

'Hardships, stigma and violence'

Police had originally started their prostitution crackdown following complaints from merchants who said shoppers were upset by the activity.

But, as Williston noted, the police approach changed.

"As the police talked to the sex trade workers, they became increasingly aware of the hardships, stigma and violence to which they were exposed," he wrote.

'A legitimate response'

Operation John Be Gone was aimed at people police suspected were being violent toward vulnerable sex-trade workers.

As for naming Mercer and the others at a news conference at the conclusion of the police operation, Williston said it was not an abuse of process or a violation of Mercer's charter rights.

"The personal information released at the press conference was limited to what was already accessible to the media and the public in the informations before the Court."

Mercer is to be sentenced on the prostitution-related offences in November.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 40 years, the last 31 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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