Why is No One Talking About Elder Abuse?

GEO Oct 26, 2010Did you know that in thirty-five years one in four Canadians will be over the age of 65? Today our senior population is well over 5 million and expected to reach 10 million by 2036.

We do know that as we age we become more vulnerable as our physical and mental health declines. You don’t have to be 65 or older to experience the signs and symptoms of fading youth and to realize that no magic elixirs exist despite the hype of the cosmetics and plastic surgery industries.

A recent news story about pop radio icon Casey Kasem reveals the insidious nature of elder abuse and the difficulty of preventing it or proving it. In Mr. Kasem’s last years he suffered from Parkinson’s disease which became increasingly more debilitating. His three children from his first marriage became concerned when Mr. Kasem’s wife, Jean, refused them access to their father for over three months. The children applied for conservatorship or committeeship, as it is called in Canada, but their application was refused as the Court found no evidence of elder abuse.

It is startling to hear that a California court did not understand that the very fact Mr. Kasem was kept isolated and away from his children and friends, was a sign of elder abuse. Unfortunately for Mr. Kasem his situation grew worse when his wife removed him from hospital in California, against his doctors’ orders, and moved him first to Las Vegas and then to her friend’s home in Seattle. The ambulance driver who transported Mr. Kasem to a private home, rather than a hospital, reported the incident to authorities.

On June 1, 2014 his eldest daughter was awarded conservatorship and she and her siblings were by his side when he died on June 15. Even after death, the abuse continued, as his wife ordered an autopsy and later sent his body to Norway for burial.

While Mr. Kasem’s case was extreme and public, many seniors suffer in silence as they are mistreated, over-medicated, ignored, deprived of food and water, physically, emotionally, and sexually abused or victims of fraud, theft or worse.

According to Canada’s Ministry of Justice website,www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/, while cases of assault, criminal negligence, and fraud have been levelled against perpetrators of elder abuse, the term “elder abuse” has not appeared in a court judgment and is not a term found in Canada’s Criminal Code.

Like child abuse and domestic violence, crimes that were hidden in the shadows for decades, it is time for all Canadians to address the shameful secrets of elder abuse and to be attentive to seniors around them who may be unable to help themselves. It is also time for the Criminal Code to include specific provisions with regards to elder abuse so that Canadians know that suffering seniors deserve respect and liberty to live out their golden years with their civil rights intact.

If you suspect elder abuse, please report it to social services.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ugly Divorce: Allegations of Pedophilia/Exhibitionism Haunt Actor Stephen Collins

DSC00280Stephen Collins is an accomplished actor who has performed on and off- Broadway, and in a variety of films and television productions over a lengthy Hollywood career. He is most famous for playing the father in the WB network’s “7th Heaven” for over 10 years.

After a first marriage lasting seven years, he married actress Faye Grant in 1985 and they have one child together. Ms. Grant has not seen the same career success as her husband.

Unfortunately, in 2012 their marriage broke down and Mr. Collins filed for divorce. According to Ms. Grant, about that same time they were in couples’ counselling and during a confidential counselling session Mr. Collins allegedly admitted he had sexually molested several young girls. A tape recording of this session was made by Ms. Grant without Mr. Collins knowledge and she saw to it that the tape was delivered to the police in New York.

After an apparent investigation no charges were filed agains Mr. Collins and that might have been the end of it, until gossip giant TMZ recently received a copy of the tape and released it on their website.

TMZ has stated that the tape came from Faye Grant although she has denied their claim. In the meantime, court documents filed by Ms. Grant have surfaced that are adding more fuel to the fire and Stephen Collins’ career resembles a funeral pyre, with the release of this startling information.

He was about to commence production on a movie but was immediately let go and has also resigned from the national board of the Screen Actors Guild.

The sad and sorry part is that the this tape and the accompanying allegations have nothing to do with the divorce that is before the court. Their child is an adult. The only issues are financial. Ms. Grant is seeking $13,000 a month in spousal support and division of their family community property, which reportedly amounts to $13 million.

Mr. Collins’ lawyer has said that Ms. Grant used the audiotape to extort additional monies from his client, beyond the amounts she would be entitled to by law. Of course, Grant’s attorney denies that, only allowing that she wanted him to provide a trust fund for their adult daughter and make a donation to a sexual abuse charity.

It can’t be a coincidence that the tape was released on the eve of their divorce trial this week, which has now been postponed because Faye Grant’s lawyer refuses to continue to act for her, citing a dispute regarding his legal fees and an “irremediable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship”.

If she is entitled to a substantial portion of their $13 million dollar
estate, her attorney’s excuse for dropping out of the case sounds suspicious. Could it be that her attorney realizes she has sabotaged her case by the release of the tape?

With no income coming to Mr. Collins, Ms. Grant must surely understand that any thoughts of significant spousal support are a pipe dream. And now she also has to respond to her husband’s lawsuit against her, where he is seeking $1 million dollars in damages for the harm she has caused to his career and his lost income.

At this stage, no alleged victims have surfaced and I suspect that is why the police investigation in 2012 came to a stand-still. Nonetheless, true or not, it will be a miracle if Stephen Collins can recover his reputation and professional status in Hollywood.

So ugly, and so unnecessary….Let the criminal justice system deal with this issue. It has no place in family court.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee lang

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Will Bankrupt Billionaire Escape His Spousal Support Obligations?

DSC00507 (2)American Samuel Wyly and his late brother Charles made their fortune as savvy entrepreneurs. They founded or grew a variety of successful businesses including arts and crafts stores Michael’s, University Computing Company, restaurant chain Bonanza Steakhouse, and Sterling Software. They also reputedly donated over $90 million dollars to charitable causes, including large donations to the Republican party.

Along the way some of their business activities attracted the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2006 they were under investigation for their alleged use of potentially illegal offshore tax shelters. Grand juries in New York and Texas were tasked with investigating whether the brothers had used funds in offshore trusts to purchase $30 million dollars of art, jewellery, furniture, and other personal items for themselves.

They denied any wrongdoing and advised investigators they would invoke the fifth amendment if they were subpoenaed to testify. They were never called, a bullet dodged.

However, an insider trading investigation in 2010 did not end as well. The allegations, later proved in court, were that Samuel Wyly used insider information to buy and sell securities for an undisclosed profit of $550 million. He apparently traded public stock in companies where he and his brother served as board members, through hidden entities in other jurisdictions.

A Manhattan federal jury in May 2014 found Mr. Wyly guilty and it is expected that Mr. Wyly will have to “disgorge” or pay back $300 million dollars. His assets were also frozen.

Last month Mr. Wyly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas, an event that caused consternation for his ex-wife Victoria Lee Wyly, now Torie Steele, who after their 1991 divorce negotiated support payments of $500,000 per year. In his bankruptcy filings Mr. Wyly recorded monthly spending of $1 million. That has also been curtailed by bankruptcy officers.

Spousal and child support payments are not cancelled by a bankruptcy, however, a paying party’s change in income will be grounds for a variation of support. According to Ms. Steele’s lawyer, Samuel Wyly has already missed a monthly payment of just over $40,000.

There is, however, a complicating factor in respect of Ms. Steele’s support payments. To avoid the “risk and cost” of a contested spousal support hearing the parties agreed in 1993 that Mr. Wyly would act as an investment advisor for Ms. Steele, manage $5 million dollars of her funds, and guarantee her returns of $500,000 per year for her lifetime.

In 2007 Mr. Wyly went to court seeking to be released from this obligation. A judge upheld the arrangement saying Wyly “was agreeable to taking his chance with his acumen as an investor as opposed to
risk incurring any further spousal support obligations.”

The question for the bankruptcy court is whether Ms. Steele’s investment income arrangement constitutes spousal support and if it does not, where does that leave her?

I’ll be watching this case closely and report the outcome in due course.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Divorce Spyware: I Spy With My Little Eye

DSC00275_1 In many family law cases suspicion and lack of trust permeates divorce proceedings. It has become routine to have new divorce clients ask about the legal rules regarding spyware, computer passwords, telephone taps, and other forms of clandestine information-gathering tools.

In the old days, divorcing parties hired private detectives to ferret out damaging information about their estranged spouses. When no-fault divorce was introduced in Canada, investigators found their work drying up as it didn’t matter whether a spouse had been unfaithful.

However, with advances in technology and the proliferation of “Spy” stores, anybody
can readily access hidden “nanny” cameras, telephone bugs and computer screeners, or privately install a GPS on an unwitting spouse’s vehicle.

Gone are the simpler days when a wife simply located her husband’s desk keys or office pass to make an after-hours entry in order to surreptitiously remove or photocopy important documents and generally snoop for information that might help her and hurt him.

Even without sophisticated spy tools it is not difficult to track a spouse’s activities by monitoring their emails, text messages, credit card purchases, bank transactions, Facebook page, etc. Most separated spouses do not immediately change their passwords and frequently spouses can access important information this way.

But is it legal? That’s where it gets dicey…If the family computer is shared by both husband and wife with a single password, it may be offensive to spy on one’s spouse, but probably not illegal.

But even without a computer password, illegal hacking is easier than you think with today’s sophisticated devices. You may recall that journalists for one of Britain’s leading newspapers were hacking phones and computers of celebrities, crime victims, and the royal family, a situation that resulted in the newspaper eventually folding amid embarrassment and scandal.

What about putting a tap on a spouse’s car phone? That’s a no-no. Canada’s privacy law provides that so long as one of the two parties being recorded consents there is no problem and of course, if you record your conversations with your spouse you have obviously consented. However, if you place a bug on your wife’s car telephone, you are recording her conversations with others, yes, maybe even her boyfriend, but those parties have not consented.

What about installing a hidden tracker on your spouse’s car? Again, if the car is in joint names, you can do as you like, but I would be cautious with a GPS on a vehicle that does not belong to you. Besides potential privacy violations, you may be faced with criminal charges such as stalking or harassment.

The question you must ask is whether the evidence you need to get is worth the risk of a privacy violation or worse? That’s a decision for you and your family lawyer to make.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

ANOTHER WRONGFUL CONVICTION: IVAN HENRY “INNOCENCE ON TRIAL” by JOAN MCEWEN

BarristerI admit it…I’m a crime junkie. I’ve read every true crime book written by Ann Rule and Jack Olsen. I’m also a big fan of America’s Most Wanted, and I frequently peruse the FBI Most Wanted List. Don’t hate me when I tell you that I follow the executions in the States, even though I’m against capital punishment.

Having established my credentials to review Vancouver lawyer Joan McEwen’s new book “Innocence on Trial: The Framing of Ivan Henry” Heritage House Publishing 2014, I should also add that I’m a criminology graduate and have been married to a police officer for almost three decades.

Beginning with Steven Truscott and on to David Milgaard, Guy Morin, Romeo Phillion, Michael Morton and so many others, I have been horrified by the number of men who have languished in prison for crimes they did not commit, both in Canada and the United States.

But Joan McEwen’s story of the persecution of Ivan Henry brings it all home, right to our doorstep in Vancouver British Columbia, where a down-on-his-luck ex-con, father to two young daughters, found himself ensnared in a nightmare that still has not ended, after serving 27 years in prison.

Ivan Henry, age 35, was in an on-again/off-again relationship with ex- wife Jessie, a drug addict, when he was detained by the Vancouver Police Department as a burglary suspect. What he didn’t know was that the police were really after him for fifteen sexual assaults attributed to a sex offender the police called the “rip-off rapist”, based on the offender’s pretense that he was looking for someone who had stolen from him. Henry’s record contained one hit for attempted rape, a charge he pled guilty to on the advice of his lawyer when he lived in Winnipeg.

He denied being involved in any sexual offences and offered to take a polygraph test. The police declined his offer, but were adamant that he participate in a line-up. When he resisted, three “lean and mean” uniformed officers grabbed him and maneuvered him into a line with an assortment of their dark-haired colleagues, wrapping themselves around him, while holding his head of red hair in a vise-grip.

The photo of that line-up became a crucial part of Henry’s case and it was later revealed to be a “trophy”, retained by the trial judge, Mr. Justice Bouck, who proudly displayed it in the Judge’s Lounge in the courthouse at 800 Smithe Street, Vancouver. Cheap laughs…

Henry was immature and ornery, and too foolish to realize he was in water over his head when, after a preliminary hearing before His Honour Wallace Craig, he was committed to trial for ten counts of rape. Before his 1983 jury trial began Henry fired his legal aid lawyer. When offered the services of legal star, Richard Peck as trial counsel, Henry declined, believing the system was rigged and that Peck was just another player in the grand conspiracy against him.

How difficult could it be? There was no evidence against him: no hair, fibre, DNA , confession, or eye witnesses, and he had an alibi for many of the times he was alleged to be in flagrante delicto.
His trial tactics were unconventional, to say the least. Because he knew he had not assaulted any of the parade of women who identified him as their rapist, some of whom said they recognized his voice, he argued they were all liars…making it all up.

Before the trial completed Henry came to the realization that while he could handle the facts, he needed a lawyer to help him with the law. When he asked Mr. Justice Bouck to allow him to obtain a lawyer for that purpose, Bouck J. said:

“You should have thought of that before…I said you should have a lawyer. You turned it down. You elected to represent yourself. You take the chances…We’ve given you a copy of Martin’s Criminal Code.”

After ten hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Ivan Henry on all ten counts, whereafter Crown Counsel Mike Luchenko announced the Crown was seeking a dangerous offender designation. As night follows day, Henry was “bitched”, the expression used to describe criminals found to be “habitual” or dangerous offenders.

Henry poured over law books in preparation for his appeal but could not afford the thousands of dollars required for the court transcripts. Eventually he appeared before British Columbia’s Court of Appeal on a motion to dismiss the appeal for want of prosecution, brought by appellate crown Al Stewart, later Mr. Justice Stewart. Of course, the
Crown won and Henry was banished to purgatory. Later his leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was also rebuked.

Ms. McEwen’s carefully researched story reveals indifference, betrayal, class discrimination, and worst of all, a cast of characters who didn’t give a damn about Ivan Henry. He was just the usual collateral damage in the state’s zeal to close the books on a series of assaults that continued after Henry was locked away.

As the truth spills out, we learn that Ivan Henry’s ex-wife, sold him down the river, a la Judas Iscariot, in exchange for a few pieces of silver and gold, that ended up in her arm.

The unfortunate women who were victimized by a rapist, were then victims of a justice system that wasn’t really interested in the truth, for if it had been, they could have seen it staring in their face.

It is difficult to say who comes off worse in this sordid tale. Based on Ms. McEwen’s careful narrative, it must be a tie between Crown Counsel Mike Luchenko and trial judge Mr. Justice Bouck, both of whom deserve censure for the roles they played. By 1983, it was no secret that eyewitness testimony was unreliable and could never, by itself, be the foundation for a life sentence. But that’s what happened.

Years later, when one of the heroines of this story, Crown Counsel, Jean Connor , voiced her suspicions to the Attorney-General, concerning the convictions of Ivan Henry, McEwen reports that Mr. Luchenko tried, undeservingly, to take credit for an eleventh hour redemption.

With twists and turns galore, and an unvarnished glimpse of Canada’s brutal prison system, Ms. McEwen’s book is a compelling must-read for anyone who still believes justice should be blind, and that it is better that ten guilty men go free than to have one innocent man suffer.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ever Hear of “Divorce Trolling”? Me Neither.

10950859361151CDPApparently “divorce trolling” has gotten so bad in the State of Michigan that a new law has been proposed to outlaw the practice, a bill sponsored by Michigan Republican Senator Rick Jones.

You ask “what is divorce trolling?” Good question. According to Senator Jones:

“When a woman is a victim of domestic violence and decides to file for divorce from her abusive husband, she should not have to worry about a trolling attorney tipping off her husband before she has time to protect herself and the children by taking actions like moving into a shelter house or getting a personal protection order.”

The proposed law will make it unlawful for a person to intentionally contact an individual that the person knows to be a party to a divorce action filed with a court, or an immediate family member of that individual with a direct solicitation to provide  a legal service until the expiration of 14 days after the date the proof of service is filed with the Court.

A first violation of this law is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, but if you get caught a second time or more, you’re looking at possible imprisonment and a fine of not more than $5,000.

I can only guess that divorce lawyers in Michigan are desperately in search of clients. Here in Vancouver it takes weeks to get an appointment with a top lawyer and even then, they may not want your case.

The good senator, a former sheriff, wants to make sure that women and children who flee a violent relationship aren’t further bugged by lawyers during this emotional time. Hard to believe that legislators in Michigan have nothing better to do than enact unenforceable laws.

I can picture it now…a sleazy lawyer lounging in  a criminal courtroom, jotting down names of domestic violence victims so he/she can run to a telephone to offer legal services to their spouse? Ya think?

Debunking the Myths About Canada’s Proposed Prostitution Law

_DSC4179 - Version 2The Harper government’s new prostitution Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, has polarized stakeholders as evidenced in the ongoing hearings before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, with no consensus among social service agencies who provide support to prostitutes, among prostitutes themselves, or among legal analysts and lawyers who study the issues.

Those who condemn Bill C-36 and favour full legalization of prostitution in Canada focus their remarks on the following arguments:

1. Prostitutes choose to work in the sex industry and like it.

Because some women have the emotional maturity to choose this work, it does not mean that one should ignore the vast library of research that shows that in the main, prostitution is a survival strategy, a last option, and the very edifice of prostitution is built on the lie that women like it.

A United Nations International Labour Organization report in 1998 found that prostitution was one of the most alienated forms of labour.

2. Bill C-36 will push prostitution further underground.

The empirical evidence from Sweden is that street prostitution was cut in half by the Nordic model as working girls were free to sell their services unimpeded by the law in safer, indoor locations. (See “The Ban Against Purchase of Sexual Services: An Evaluation 1999-2008″ Swedish Government report 2010).

With Bill C-36′s decriminalization of common bawdy houses, women will be free to set up their own indoor situations or go online and advertise their services.

3. Bill C-36 will make prostitutes less safe.

It can’t be sugar-coated. Prostitution is a dangerous way to make a living and making it legal for women to sell sex will not change this. However, research shows that safety issues are present  whether prostitution is legalized or criminalized. If one works as a prostitute, no matter the legal structure, there are very high odds of physical and sexual violence as well as long-lasting trauma.(See `Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”,Dr. Farley et al)

4. Bill C-36 is a conservative moral crusade

Governments throughout Europe are adopting laws that embrace the Nordic Model, including socialist (Sweden and France) and progressive governments (Iceland, where the sex industry has virtually been shut down, on account of a large number of women in elected office). The twelve-year legalization experiment in Holland and Australia has been a debacle. Prostitution has increased, trafficking of foreign  sex workers has increased, and pimps are now cast as legitimate businessmen. Women and girls work underground rather than registering and paying tax.(See “Legalizing Prostitution is Not the Answer”, Drs. Mary Sullivan ad Sheila Jeffreys 2001 http://www.catwinternational.org)

If one considers equality for women a moral issue, then yes, it is a moral issue.

5. Bill C-36 will be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The proposed law is a radical departure from its predecessor. Under the Criminal Code, prostitution was legal. Under Bill C-36 it is illegal for men to purchase sex. The law is no longer directed at activities that surround prostitution, such as soliciting  sex on a street corner or operating a common bawdy house. The new law calls a spade a spade. Prostitution hurts and exploits women and children.

Bill C-36 treats women as the victims they are, they will not face criminal  sanctions unless they ply their trade in the immediate vicinity of school grounds, playgrounds, or daycare centres. All easily avoidable.

The current legislation was struck down because the connection between the effect of the law and the object of the law i.e. public nuisance, was illusory. It was taking a legal sledge hammer to maintain public order arising from a legal activity. It was grossly disproportionate. Bill C-36 clearly sets out its goal: the illegality of the purchase of sex and the abolition of prostitution.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang