Span closed for 21/2 hours; Defendants claim courts are biased against fathers in custody disputes
Two divorced fathers whose publicity stunt four years ago shut down the Jacques Cartier Bridge for 21/2 hours were found guilty yesterday of mischief and other charges.
Quebec Court Judge Gilles Cadieux rejected the argument of necessity Benoît Leroux and Gilles Dumas invoked to justify breaking the law with their stunt on the bridge.
Dressed in a Robin outfit and carrying a placard calling for parental equality, Leroux scaled the bridge's ironworks on May 23, 2005, with Dumas coordinating from the ground.
Because of the danger, the Sûreté du Québec closed the span to traffic in both directions.
Cadieux ruled the two men, activists in Fathers 4 Justice - an international organization that fights for fathers' rights in child-custody cases - did not require illegal methods to make known their claims to the public or media.
Both men contend family law courts are stacked against fathers in custody disputes.
Leroux said outside the court he's been barred from visiting his 8-year-old daughter in the U.S. for the past six years because his estranged wife won a civil protection order after he failed to make child support payments.
Leroux and Dumas were convicted of mischief and conspiracy. Dumas was also convicted of interfering with police in the exercise of their duties.
Leroux asked the court for an unconditional discharge so he does not get a criminal record that could prevent him from visiting the U.S. to see his daughter or affect his standing with the Order of Engineers.
Cadieux asked him to consult a lawyer or do his own research to determine the consequences of having a criminal record.
Dumas objected to introducing his previous convictions into the court record. He he is to make legal arguments on that issue and his sentence on May 5.
Holy halls of justice! "Robin" guilty of mischief, conspiracy
Thu, 2009-04-09 17:12.
<<“Leroux says desperate times called for desperate measures, describing what they call an unfair and biased justice system and the plight of single dads in family court.”>>
Two Montreal men fighting for the rights of single dads in custody cases have been found guilty of charges stemming from a stunt that shut down the Jacques Cartier Bridge almost four years ago, paralyzing traffic for two and a half hours.
Benoit Leroux and Gille Dumas were convicted of mischief and conspiracy, with Dumas also being found guilty of obstruction of justice.
Back in May 2005 during the Victoria Day weekend, Leroux dressed up in a Robin costume, scaled the bridge and unfurled a banner calling for parental equality. His partner in crime Dumas was helping out on the ground. Leroux and Dumas belong to the lobby group Fathers 4 Justice. Leroux, who's separated from his wife, says he hasn't seen his young daughter since 2003.
Looking more like the mild mannered, bespectacled, silver-haired engineer that he is than the Boy Wonder, Leroux appeared to be resigned to his fate, unsurprised by the ruling.
Leroux says desperate times called for desperate measures, describing what they call an unfair and biased justice system and the plight of single dads in family court.
But the judge disagreed, saying there was no urgency and there were other less drastic measures available.
Leroux isn't sorry about the stunt but he wouldn't do it again. And even though their message appears to have been lost,
"For now, but in the end we will win, because we have a good fight, a just fight."
Sentencing arguments are set for next month.