Former gymnastics trainer Stay of proceedings against Michel Arsenault

Former gymnastics trainer Stay of proceedings against Michel Arsenault

A former gymnastics trainer accused of taking advantage of the Olympic dream of young athletes to sexually assault them got away with “major shortcomings” of an investigator, who did not take notes during meetings with them. complainants.

• Read also: He was “in love” with his young athlete

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“It’s pretty inconceivable, it looks like the groundwork hasn’t been done. When we know the difficulty for a victim to file a complaint, we might expect at least [de la part des enquêteurs]”, Commented Thursday Arlène Gaudreault, the president of the Quebec Association Plaidoyer-Victimes.

For the representative of the Quebec Regrouping of Centers for Assistance and the Fight Against Sexual Assault (RQCALACS) Stéphanie Tremblay, this demonstrates “all the obstacles victims face in obtaining justice”.

It is that Thursday, at the courthouse in Montreal, the former gymnastics coach Michel Arsenault obtained a stay of proceedings, because of the work of the investigator of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), Éric Lefebvre.

“Information revealed […] demonstrate major deficiencies in the investigator’s note-taking in the file, explained Crown prosecutor, Me Rachelle Pitre. They make many of the complainants’ statements forever inaccessible. ”

Sexual assault

Arsenault, 59, was charged with sexually assaulting two underage athletes, as well as assaulting four others. During the preliminary investigation, one of them explained that she was forced to have full sex, to the point where she felt like a “servant”.

“I remember her hands on my body in uncomfortable places, like the buttocks, the side of the breasts,” another complainant said.

However, following the preliminary investigation, the defense realized that the investigator had not taken notes during interviews with the complainants, including one of three hours.

“The investigator ignored important elements which did not support his theory of the cause and, as a result, he knowingly omitted to keep several pieces of evidence, thus distorting all the facts in question”, had indicated Me Roxane Hamelin of the defense, in a request for a stay of proceedings.

Ultimately, it was the Crown that ended the case, after meeting with the complainants. This does not mean that Arsenault never committed the acts with which he was accused, but since there will be no trial, a judge will never have to decide.

Me Pitre also underlined their resilience and courage in this matter.

Listen to Sophie Durocher’s column with Pierre Nantel on QUB radio:

The silent SQ

But despite the magnitude of his investigator’s blunder and the pain imposed on the victims, all the SQ had to answer was a laconic and flat “no comment …”.

The Communications Department of the largest police force in the province could not even say whether an investigation was going to be conducted to shed light on the work of investigator Lefebvre.

What they said

“The police carried out a botched investigation, collecting only the evidence that was consistent with their theory of events and thus deliberately failing to keep all the evidence obtained.”

– Me Roxane Hamelin and Me Sophie Beauvais, from the defense

“It is certain that we think about the complainants before making such a decision, we have empathy. We took care to inform them first, to explain to them the reasons supporting this stay of proceedings and to answer their questions. ”

– Me Rachelle Pitre, of the Crown

“Disappointing results are extremely common. It takes alternative resources to overcome the difficulties of the system. ”

– Stéphanie Tremblay, representative of RQCALACS

“I have the impression that there was a lack of professionalism that will have to be examined in one investigation … another.”

– Arlène Gaudreault, President of the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes


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