Jun. 28, 2002. 01:00 AM
Spanking case judge talks on television
Gives interview as media banned from publicizing trial
By Star Staff
ST. THOMAS, Ont. - A family court judge who imposed a wide-ranging publication ban in an ongoing trial involving a family's use of corporal punishment has taken the uncommon step of talking to the media about the case.
In an interview yesterday, Madam Justice Eleanor Schnall commented to a London television station about what she thinks the case involves, publicity surrounding the trial, and her views on whether her final ruling will clarify the central issue surrounding the case.
She also said the case was not about spanking "in the way most of us consider spanking."
The interview was obtained by Guy Goodwin, a videographer with the New PL.
Goodwin was outside the courthouse here yesterday morning and began asking the questions as she was walking into the building. He later informed the judge his station would probably run the interview in its entirety, pending legal approval.
The case now going on stems from the seizure of seven children from an Aylmer Church of God family last year, and allegations the children were being spanked with objects.
The children have been returned to their family, but the judge must now decide if further children's aid supervision is needed.
Judges are discouraged from talking about cases they are hearing. Schnall told the television reporter it was not appropriate for her to comment specifically on the case.
Goodwin asked her whether she was surprised about the level of publicity surrounding the trial.
"No. This is a case that has attracted a lot of interest and for very good reasons. There are issues that many people have very strong views about."
When asked if her final ruling on the case would clarify the dispute, she said: "As a judge, one always hopes that a ruling will clarify things or certainly promote a better understanding of what we have and what we deal with ..."
She later added: "But it certainly is well-recognized that these are important issues and the Charter issues that parents' counsel are going to raise make this case a very, very interesting case."
Meanwhile, The Star's Cal Millar reports that witnesses have finished testifying in a Charter application challenging the admissibility of certain evidence. It was filed during the application in family court for the protection order for the seven children.
Schnall sat until 7:30 p.m. last night to allow witnesses to finish giving evidence.
The children were seized by the Family and Children's Services of St. Thomas and Elgin County on July 4, 2001.
A court-imposed publication ban prevents the media from reporting any of the evidence.
The ban is being appealed today in another court by lawyers for The Star and other media.
Rev. Henry Hildebrandt, the pastor of Aylmer's Church of God, attended by the family, completed his testimony yesterday after spending three days on the stand.
The publication ban doesn't allow the media to reveal any of his testimony and the minister couldn't even be identified by name until he finished giving his evidence.