Jury finds Michael Gordon Jackson guilty of abduction in contravention of a custody order

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post. Michael Gordon Jackson, who is charged with abduction in contravention of a parenting order, walks into the King's Bench Courthouse on April 11, 2024 in Regina.

The jury was told that the issue of whether Jackson, 55, intended to deprive his ex-wife of possession of their daughter, was central to their decision.

Brandon Harder, Regina Leader-Post

A jury has found Michael Gordon Jackson guilty of abduction in contravention of a custody order.

Jackson, now 55, acted decisively against the grain when he took his young daughter on the run at a time when many parents were eager to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.

The abduction charge was dated between Dec. 6, 2021 and Jan. 21, 2022. Police found Jackson and the girl in Vernon, B.C. in late February 2022.

The jury retired to deliberate just before noon Friday, after receiving final instructions from Court of King’s Bench Justice Heather MacMillan-Brown at the end of a trial that spanned roughly two weeks.

The verdict was returned at 2:48 p.m.

Both the Crown and the accused man himself told jurors Thursday that the case effectively came down to a single question: Did he intend to deprive his ex-wife of the then seven-year-old child?

Court heard Jackson’s ex-wife had final decision-making power when it came to matters of the child’s health.

The accused man’s position was clear throughout his testimony and final argument. His only purpose for taking the girl was to stop her from being vaccinated — something he believed would happen, and could result in harm, if he returned the child when he was meant to in November 2021.

The Crown asked jurors to consider whether he could achieve his stated goal without also intending to deprive the mother of possession of their daughter. Basically, the Crown’s position was that Jackson’s goal and the at-issue element of the offence went hand-in-hand.

MacMillan-Brown gave the jury a thorough set of instructions Friday morning, which included strong warnings about biases and personal beliefs.

“It is not for you, the jury, to decide this case based upon whether or not the COVID-19 vaccine is or is not dangerous, whether it does or it does not have negative side effects, or whether or not individuals should be or should not be vaccinated,” the judge told them.

“Your views on those questions are not relevant to what you have to decide in this case.”

While she was clear that the jury would be left to decide whether or not the Crown had proven all elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge paid particular attention to the element of intent. That element was “central” to the decision they needed to make, she said.

The judge provided an analysis of how to approach the element of intent.

For Jackson to have intended to deprive his ex-wife of possession of the child, MacMillan-Brown said, it had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he meant to put her beyond his ex-wife’s reach.

Alternatively, she told the jury, it had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackson “anticipated” by taking the girl “it was certain or substantially certain” that his ex-wife would be deprived of possession of the child, “regardless of why” he took the her.

MacMillan-Brown told the jury that to intend to deprive a parent of possession of a child “is to somehow mean to put the child beyond the reach of that parent’s control or custody.”

An accused does not have to intend to take control of the child permanently, or for a long period of time, to prove the element of intent, the judge said.

“A brief or short time is enough.”