The stopping of the proceedings against the former trainer Michel Arsenault because of major gaps in the police investigation is “revolting” judge the lawyer Me François-David Bernier.
• Read also: Stay of proceedings against Michel Arsenault: the SQ launches an administrative investigation
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It is difficult to understand why normally well-trained police officers have not succeeded in advancing the case in court while respecting the procedures, he considers.
While normally a victim’s testimony must be written, or sometimes even recorded, the testimonies of the complainants in the Arsenault file were neither written down or even recorded.
A major flaw in the procedure that prevents a fair and equitable trial from being held, an error that would no doubt have been used by any defense lawyer.
“It’s not always easy, there are a lot of procedures and ways of doing things. When we are in defense, this is what we will look at: the errors that have been made, and sometimes we find an error that is an infringement of the Charter, ”he explains in an interview with Quebec Matin.
Thus, accused persons may be acquitted or even released from all charges due to procedural errors.
“In matters of sexual assault, in the sports world, when there are a lot of people involved, it is difficult as an investigation, perhaps the errors come from there”, speculates the general lawyer.
Moreover, it is impossible to start the legal process again, which would also be “tainted”, specifies the lawyer.
Not the truth at all costs
For the CEO of JuriPop, Me Sophie Gagnon, this story reveals that the criminal justice system does not seek to “get to the truth at all costs”, and the rules to be followed are very very demanding.
“Failure for the police, for prosecutors, for the state to respect them can lead to a stay of proceedings and an acquittal, and then situations like these, which are necessary in a democracy, in a rule of law. It comes as a shock to victims and survivors because we wonder why someone who has done something cannot be brought to justice. To ensure that the State in its investigations follows the applicable rules to respect the freedom of the innocent. It’s not an easy story, ”she admits in an interview.
Following these failures, and concerned about this serious situation, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) announced the launch of an administrative investigation to understand what had happened in this case.
Michel Arsenault, 59, was accused of sexually assaulting two underage athletes and assaulting four others.
The decision to drop the case created an outcry among advocacy groups for victims of sexual assault, and even had an echo as far as Quebec.