A Canadian court has found two former leaders of a breakaway religious sect guilty of practicing polygamy, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp said, after decades of attempting to prosecute members of the group.
Winston Blackmore and James Oler, the former bishops of the breakaway Mormon community of bountiful in the south-east of British Columbia, were found guilty by a British Columbia supreme court judge on a charge of polygamy each one.
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Blackmore, 61, was accused of practicing a “form of polygamy” or “a kind of conjugal union” with 24 women between 1990 and 2014, according to court documents. The media have reported that the father of at least 146 children.
Smell, 53, faced the same charge, involving five women between 1993 and 2009. It is not known how many children Smell has begotten.
Under Canada’s century-old anti-polygamy law, the government of British Columbia had been weighing prosecution since the beginning of the 1990s against members of the isolated community of 1,500 residents.
Despite the multiple police investigations of allegations of abuse in the community, refused to follow the polygamy charges because of the concern that doing so would violate constitutional freedoms of religion, that Blackmore defense lawyers had argued.
In 2011, the British Columbia supreme court stated that laws prohibiting polygamy was constitutional and did not violate religious freedoms.
The main stream of the Utah-based Church of jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned polygamy in 1890.