© Guardian file photo
A man who was charged after an incident involving a Guardian journalist has been found not guilty of causing a disturbance.
Noel Ayangma appeared before Chief Judge John Douglas in provincial court in Charlottetown for the second day of trial after he previously pleaded not guilty.
In handing down his verdict, Douglas found Ayangma impeded the journalist, disturbed her and left her shaken, but said it wasn’t a criminal disturbance under the meaning set out in the Criminal Code of Canada.
The charge stemmed from an incident outside the P.E.I. Supreme Court on Feb. 4 after Ayangma attended a show-cause hearing for his son who was arrested as part of the Operation Clean Sweep drug investigation.
That incident was caught on surveillance video, although it didn’t include audio.
During the trial, the court heard from several witnesses, including the journalist who testified Ayangma blocked her way as she tried to get a picture of his son.
She testified Ayangma wasn’t rough with her but did scare her.
Ayangma also testified that he moved in front of the journalist and told her she wasn’t going to take his son’s picture.
During Wednesday’s proceedings the court heard from a friend of Ayangma’s who witnessed the incident, the Guardian editor who assigned the journalist to take the picture and the investigating officer in the case.
In his closing arguments, Crown attorney John McMillan said the basic facts of the case weren’t in dispute after Ayangma admitted his intent was to block the journalist from taking the picture.
McMillan said the journalist wasn’t on a mission when she called the police or appeared in court.
“She was a victim of a disturbance,” he said.
After hearing McMillan’s submissions, Douglas told Ayangma he didn’t need to hear from him and said his decision would come down to a matter of law more than the facts in the case.
Douglas said Ayangma thought The Guardian had picked on and unfairly picked out his son.
He also said Ayangma had no right to keep the journalist from doing her job and the evidence showed she was intimidated.
In delivering the not-guilty verdict, Douglas cited case law from other provinces that he used to determine there wasn’t a criminal disturbance.
But even though he found Ayangma not guilty, Douglas suggested he apologize to the journalist, although he had no power to order an apology.
Ayangma later offered an apology outside the courthouse for the entire matter and told The Guardian it has always been his intention to apologize.