19 January 2001
A Cornwall-area man has jeopardized a jury trial by posting information about the case on the Internet, a judge has ruled.
Dick Nadeau, who operates a Web site to inform the public about an alleged sex abuse scandal in the area, compromised the prosecution and the defence’s right to a jury trial by posting details covered by a publication ban, Mr. Justice Colin McKinnon said.
“I want you to understand the damage you’ve done,” the Ontario Superior Court judge told Nadeau Wednesday, before agreeing to a request from Jacques Leduc’s lawyer to switch to a trial by judge alone.
The ruling is believed to be one of the first to address the use of cyberspace for disseminating private or protected information about alleged sex offenders.
Earlier this week, a lawyer for a released sex offender in Brampton said he’ll challenge plans by Peel police to distribute his client’s photo and force him to comply with certain conditions to get out of jail.
The ex-offender, Martin Ferrier, hasn’t been charged with any new crime, but police are detaining him under a Criminal Code section that allows them to arrest someone they fear could seriously injure another person.
In the Cornwall case, McKinnon lifted the publication ban after Leduc opted for trial by judge alone, in light of what defence lawyer Steven Skurka called the poisoning of the jury pool by Nadeau’s actions.
“I have the power to hold you in contempt, although I’m not going to,” the judge said, telling Nadeau he hoped he understood the seriousness of what he’d done. The crown agreed Nadeau compromised the trial.
On the Web site, Nadeau, 60, suggested the defence was opposed to having Leduc judged by members of the community. He also referred to Leduc as a pedophile.
“You’re damn right I did,” Nadeau told The Star in an interview yesterday from his Casselman home.
Leduc, a Cornwall lawyer, has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges laid after the Ontario Provincial Police’s Project Truth unit investigated alleged abuse by prominent officials and clergy.
Nadeau himself has filed a lawsuit alleging he was sexually abused at a Roman Catholic college in Cornwall in the 1950s. The self-described retired activist, who has been in court for much of Leduc’s trial, said he didn’t know he did anything wrong until “two Project Truth officers came to the door and said the judge wanted to see me.”
He said while he’ll respect the judge’s order and wouldn’t have breached the ban had he known about it, he thinks it should be “up to a pedophile to prove his innocence” not up to the crown to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nadeau is also being sued by several Catholic priests for defamation in connection with the Web site.
“I have no qualms about being unfair to a pedophile,” he said. “I think we’ve been able to demonstrate just how much damage a pedophile does to a young man.”
The right of police to release a sex offender’s photo has also come under scrutiny. Skurka and lawyer Phil Campbell went to court last fall to stop Toronto police from releasing a photo of pedophile Peter Whitmore.
While they lost their constitutional challenge, the judge said the case raised pressing issues, and he might have ruled differently if Whitmore showed signs of rehabilitation.
Defence lawyer Richard Macklin told The Star recently that the Ontario law allowing police to release photos of sex offenders and notify the community of their presence is among the most open-ended in North America.
Credit: LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER