HALIFAX – A Halifax man accused of hurling a vulgar slur at a female reporter during a live broadcast has been referred to Nova Scotia’s restorative justice process.
Nash John Gracie, 25, was charged with public mischief and causing a disturbance at a Halifax bar as CTV reporter Heather Butts reported on the world junior hockey championship on Dec. 29.
A video recording shows a man approaching Butts and calling out the same sexually explicit phrase that has been yelled at other female reporters across the country. Butts turned around and continued with her broadcast. She was speaking from the Pint Public House, as fans watched the championship game.
Joel Pink, Gracie’s lawyer, said in an interview Monday that his client has requested the process, and the Crown accepted the proposal.
“We recommended it to the client. If he completes the restorative justice the charges will be withdrawn,” said Pink in a telephone interview.
Pink said his client will meet with Correctional Services, which oversees the restorative justice process, and details will be worked out from there.
Restorative justice can include the accused meeting with the victim to discuss the incident, but Butts and CTV declined to comment on the process and what it may involve.
The provincial website says restorative justice is “a response to crime that focuses on restoring the losses suffered by victims and communities.”
It says participants are given “an opportunity to talk about their concerns and to talk about the offence from their own perspective,” and that “the parties develop an understanding of the impact of the offence and the steps needed to make amends.”
After an agreement is reached, outlining what the offender can do to make amends, these steps must be taken before the judge will drop the criminal charges.
Chris Hansen, a spokeswoman for the prosecution service, said Gracie is to come back to Halifax provincial court on July 23 and a judge will receive a status report on the case at that time.
Several journalists have expressed support for Butts, saying the incident represents a broader problem of harassment of female reporters.
In February, a provincial court in Newfoundland and Labrador dismissed a single charge against 28-year-old Justin Penton for causing a public disturbance following a similar incident.
Penton was accused of yelling a phrase commonly abbreviated to FHITP at NTV reporter Heather Gillis last April as she recorded an interview outside the St. John’s dump.
Judge Colin Flynn said the sexist slur was vulgar and offensive, but not a crime under the circumstances.
The union that represents Gillis, Unifor, issued a statement saying it was concerned about the judge’s decision, saying he “missed an opportunity to send a message that vulgar, verbal attacks on journalists are not acceptable.”
The union said it has raised the issue at meetings with employers and through health and safety committees.
It noted Gillis had snapped a photo of the accused’s licence plate, and other union members should do the same in similar circumstances.
The acquittal also prompted Newfoundland politician Cathy Bennett to introduce a private member’s bill to amend the province’s labour laws.