Lawyer argues elderly priest should not stand trial on sex abuse charges

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The Windsor StarPublished on: February 4, 2016 | Last Updated: February 4, 2016 8:04 PM EDT

Defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme is pictured in Windsor in this 2013 file photo.
Defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme is pictured in Windsor in this 2013 file photo. Dax Melmer / Windsor Star

A retired Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a dozen boys in decades past is being assessed by a court-appointed psychiatrist to see if he’s fit to stand trial.

Rev. Linus Francis Bastien attended Superior Court Thursday where his lawyer also argued that a lower-court judge who committed the old man to stand trial after a preliminary hearing made errors in law.

The 89-year-old cleric sat in his walker next to defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme. At times, Bastien was seen nodding off. Staff have outfitted him with a headset connected to the courtroom microphones to help him better hear the proceedings.

Bastien is charged with 30 counts of indecent assault, gross indecency, sexual assault and sexual interference against 12 former altar boys. In the case of one of the alleged victims, the charges date back to 1959.

Some of the charges Bastien faces no longer exist in Canada’s Criminal Code. “What was the community standard of decency at those times?” Ducharme said. The laws on what was once considered “indecent” or “grossly indecent” were vague at best, he argued.

Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas agreed societal attitudes toward sexual behaviour have changed. For example, any sexual contact between two men used to be considered indecent under the law.

Assistant Crown attorney Jennifer Holmes said that argument does not apply in Bastien’s case because his victims were children, all still in elementary school. “This is not that case.”

While Thomas considers Ducharme’s application to have the charges thrown out, Bastien will undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Dr. William Komar is to see Bastien again next week.

If Komar’s opinion is that Bastien is mentally infirm, a fitness hearing will be necessary, Thomas said.

Two weeks have already been set aside in March for trial. Bastien has elected to be tried by a judge sitting without a jury.

Bastien was first arrested on Oct. 25, 2011, and was rearrested as each alleged victim came forward to police. He remains free on bail.

Some of Bastien’s alleged victims have expressed frustration at how long it has taken the case to get to trial. Three men launched civil lawsuits without waiting for the outcome of the criminal case.

Bastien was a priest in Windsor and the surrounding area from 1951 to 1997. He is accused of sexually abusing boys while at the parishes of St. Mary’s in Maidstone, St. Paul’s in LaSalle, St. Joachim in Lakeshore and St. Charles in the former township of Tilbury East.

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