19 October 2004
The last man charged in Cornwall’s long-running sexual assault odyssey had his case thrown out of court yesterday, ending a legal journey that dates back several years.
“You’re free to go, sir,” Judge Terence Platana told Jacques Leduc, 53, after ruling the case had taken too long to come to trial. “The length of delay is in excess of six years. … this is not an appropriate time period.”
Marie Henein, Mr. Leduc’s lawyer, brought the motion, arguing it had been almost 75 months since her client had been charged with sexual exploitation of two males in incidents alleged to have occurred from 1988 to 1996.
“It’s been a very long time,” Mr. Leduc told reporters outside the courthouse. “It’s been a trying time for myself, my family and friends. This is some resolution today.
“I keep looking at those who’ve been incarcerated and who’ve been found not to have been guilty. I look at those men and women who’ve been wrongfully accused. … We are taking advantage of a lot of good people and putting them through what I’ve been through and what my family’s been through.”
The charges, which were laid against Mr. Leduc in June 1998, stemmed from Project Truth, an OPP-led investigation. Project Truth began in 1997 after allegations a clan of pedophiles had been operating in Cornwall and area for years, with high-ranking members of the community trying to cover it up. The OPP charged 15 men with more than 120 sex crimes, but said they found no evidence of a ring of pedophiles. Those charged included four Cornwall diocese priests, a church organist, church lawyer, a Crown attorney, a coroner, a teacher, a probation officer and a former justice of the peace.
Mr. Leduc was the lawyer for the Archdiocese of Alexandria- Cornwall where some of the accused priests worked. Of the 15 charged, one pleaded guilty. The rest either died before they could be tried, were found not guilty or had their charges stayed or dropped.
Former MPP Garry Guzzo, who tabled three private member’s bills calling for an independent board of inquiry to examine the police investigations, said last night he was disappointed, but understood the decision.
“I don’t know what choice Mr. Justice Platana had in rendering the decision. The question is why did it take so long?” said Mr. Guzzo, also a former lawyer and judge. “I’m disappointed on behalf of the victims.”
Former Cornwall police Const. Perry Dunlop, whose investigation into several allegations of sexual abuse led to the formation of Project Truth, called yesterday a “very sad day.”
“It’s very sad that the victims don’t get their chance in a criminal court because I think it’s part of the healing process — to get the chance to stand up and speak and tell their side of the story,” he said from his home in British Columbia last night. “A stay of proceedings doesn’t do any justice to anyone.”
Mr. Leduc went to trial in January 2001, but the charges were stayed in March after a judge determined the Crown had deliberately withheld information. That decision was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal in July 2003, a ruling that was endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
A new trial ordered by the Supreme Court had been set to start Oct. 4. Ms. Henein brought the motion to stay the charges on the first day of the trial.