Related Report.ca Backgroud Article
Mother Not Guilty of Kidnapping
October 27, 2001
A woman who abducted her own triplets and took them to Mexico has been found not guilty of kidnapping by a jury in Stratford Ontario. Here is the story on Yahoo. This may reduce the authority of fathers, or increase the authority of parents.
Canada Gives Parents a License to Kidnap
By Brian Carnell
Wednesday, November 7, 2001
A recent decision by a jury in a Canadian child kidnapping case gave a new meaning to the word bizarre.
The case started with Carline Vandenelsen, 39, who kidnapped her three children from her husband, Craig Merkley, 45, who had custody of the children. Vandenelsen thoroughly planned the kidnapping, confided in several people that she planned to kidnap her children, then hid them in her trunk while she crossed over the border into the United States. Yet, a jury recently acquitter her of kidnapping by agreeing with her defense's bizarre legal theory.
See if this makes sense to you. Under Canadian law, parents accused of kidnapping can be acquitted if they committed the crime to prevent the children from imminent harm. Vandenelsen argued that she believed a court was about to sever her parental rights over her children. She reasoned that if her children were deprived of her by the courts, that they would suffer harm. Therefore, she argued, she was acting lawfully to protect her children when she kidnapped them.
And a jury agreed with this idiotic theory. This is especially puzzling since Canadian law requires that there been an objective need for a protective abduction, and it is hard to see a court order regarding custody of children fulfilling that criteria (in fact, the jury implicitly undermines its own decision by agreeing with this reasoning).
The jury did not get to hear the evidence a judge used to first limit Vandenelsen's visits with her children to alternate Saturdays. Merkley tape recorded calls between Vandenelsen and her children. A court psychiatrist who analyzed the tapes testified that Vandenelsen was so emotionally abusive to her children that her access to them should be restricted to special occasions (the tapes are sealed per a court order). The judge in the case was set to make a final decision on the matter before she fled the country.
Even though the didn't hear the tapes, it is still difficult to understand why a jury would buy Vandenelsen's defense. As Merkley put it, "I think that they've just declared open season for anyone who wants to abduct their children.