Denise-Tremblay, Me Audrey Roy-Cloutier and Karine Gendron.  Photos: Radio-Canada

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Denise-Tremblay, Me Audrey Roy-Cloutier and Karine Gendron. Photos: Radio-Canada

The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) is changing its way of doing things in Trois-Rivières. Radio-Canada has learned that the reorganization of work proposed by the chief prosecutor has led to the abolition of the function of designated prosecutor in matters of domestic violence.

This function was created across Quebec in order to better support victims of domestic violence and to facilitate the handling of these delicate cases in court.

In Trois-Rivières, Me Marie-Eve Paquet has been in this role since 2019.

The Department of Justice said it chose these people not only because of their legal competence, but also for their human side, their understanding of what victims of domestic violence can experience, explains Denise Tremblay, Executive Director of La Séjournelle in Shawinigan, a help center for victims of domestic violence.

The designated prosecutor accompanies the victims from the beginning to the end of the legal process. He is the one who receives the police report and decides whether or not to lay charges against the suspect. In Trois-Rivières, Me Paquet then met personally with each of the victims, at each stage of the legal process, which is sometimes long, complex and distressing for these women who have the courage to file a complaint against their own spouse.

By leading the case from start to finish, this prevented the victim from having to repeat her story over and over again to all the prosecutors responsible for supporting her at the various stages of the process.

“I’m not saying that the other prosecutors are not competent, but the designated prosecutor guarantees a certain level of trust which will develop over time. Victims must feel that they have a bond of trust with their prosecutor, ”adds Ms. Tremblay.

“This decision, no one is able to explain it”, told us a prosecutor who requested anonymity.

For obvious reasons, Me Paquet declined our interview requests and did not want to comment on the decision of his bosses.

The spokesperson for the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions, however, sent us a terse written statement in which she confirmed our information.

Me Audrey Roy-Cloutier y specifies that “the large number of cases to be completed has meant that changes have been made recently. Thus, several prosecutors are currently managing these cases ”. She adds that they are equally committed to supporting victims in the legal process and respecting the directives set out in this regard.

A flashback

All the stakeholders consulted by Radio-Canada qualified this decision as a step backwards. Karine Gendron, director of the Maison Le Far in Trois-Rivières, hopes wholeheartedly that the DPCP will reverse its decision, as soon as justice takes its breath away after the pandemic.

This decision comes at the time of the tabling by a committee of experts of Rebuilding Confidence, a voluminous 292-page report aimed at making recommendations to the Ministry of Justice to better support victims.

Between March 5 and April 10, 2020, the former Minister of Justice Sonia lebel and representatives of all political parties met with many victims of domestic violence.

190 recommendations were made, including:

  • offer continuous support to victims by a stable worker;
  • ensure continuous support and information to victims at all stages of the legal process;
  • establish a specialized court in matters of sexual assault and domestic violence;
  • develop specialized training for legal medical and psychosocial workers, police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges in matters of sexual assault and domestic violence.

A team specializing in domestic violence

In 2019, the Trois-Rivières police formed a team of investigators who have since worked almost exclusively on these domestic violence cases.

The police force is also preparing, at this very moment, an awareness plan to try to prevent domestic violence.

Same watchword in Shawinigan where the mayor Michel Angers asks the police to redouble their efforts to deal with these important files.