Nunavut ex-priest’s lawyer alleges witnesses colluded against him

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Crown asks judge to allow similar fact evidence; proceedings delayed until May 26

NEWS: Nunavut March 20, 2014 – 1:53 pm

DAVID MURPHY

Defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt says if he needed to write a textbook about witness collusion, he would focus on the Eric Dejaeger trial.

In what might be a foreshadowing of his final arguments in the trial, Kempt said there is an “outright certainty” that complainants fixed their stories before they testified at the Belgian ex-priest’s trial at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

Dejaeger’s lawyer made the comments in court March 20 in response to a Crown application that seeks to allow similar fact evidence in the trial.

Similar fact evidence uses each complainant’s testimony to corroborate testimony made by other complainants.

Dejaeger faces 68 charges related to his time as a priest in Igloolik from 1978 to 1982, most of them sex-related crimes against children.

Kempt is opposing the Crown’s application, suggesting collusion between witnesses. He gave dozens of examples of interactions witnesses had before the trial began last November.

Strong words issued from the bench as well March 20.

Justice Kilpatrick grilled Crown prosecutor Barry Nordin on why he didn’t call an expert witness to explain how memories of past trauma can resurface.

As a result, Kilpatrick said he has very little information and expertise to help him wade through the evidence.

“And that concerns me,” Kilpatrick said.

Kempt was more than willing to offer the judge his point of view.

Kempt said rumours fly in small communities in the North, and Igloolik is no different. “The whole community is tainted.”

He said 11 people travelled to Iqaluit to see Dejaeger in January 2011 when he was first brought back to Canada from Belgium, for example.

Those complainants discussed their stories of sexual abuse amongst each other — some even admitting as much on the witness stand.

Media coverage since Dejaeger returned to Canada in 2011 has been extensive and Kempt said more accusations of sexual abuse poured in thereafter.

At one point, messages were broadcast on Igloolik local radio about a lawyer from the Catholic Church wanting to speak with victims of Eric Dejaeger.

Some witnesses testified at trial that the lawyer compensated victims with thousands of dollars.

People pressured others into telling police about abuses, Kempt added. Others were “reminded” of what happened to them.

Kempt said some witnesses admitted during cross-examination that they were told to “make sure [they] mentioned Eric fucking a dog.”

“We have this tangled web of all these complainants,” and they’re “all examples of collusion,” Kempt said.

Kempt also said stories given by complainants on the witness stand have become more detailed than their sworn statements to police.

Nordin said complainants weren’t told to remember more — they simply remembered more. And the court has to take their testimony at face value.

There is no direct evidence that groups came together and discussed their stories, he added.

And any suggestion of a “grandiose scheme or conspiracy to concoct evidence” is “speculative to the nth degree,” Nordin said.

Kilpatrick will deliver his decision on the similar fact evidence application at a later date.

The trial, which began Nov. 18, 2013, is now adjourned for a third time and is set to resume May 26.

Dejaeger was visibly upset when the date was announced in court. He has been in pre-trial custody since January 2011.

5 Responses to Nunavut ex-priest’s lawyer alleges witnesses colluded against him

  1. Sylvia says:

    “Justice Kilpatrick grilled Crown prosecutor Barry Nordin on why he didn’t call an expert witness to explain how memories of past trauma can resurface.

    “As a result, Kilpatrick said he has very little information and expertise to help him wade through the evidence.

    “’And that concerns me,’ Kilpatrick said.”

    I suppose that’s the way the system works? If the Crown fails to call an expert witness it matters not whether the judge does or does not understand how sex abuse memories can resurface, or, for that matter, why it takes victims years to find the courage to come forward?

    Surely it should be a given by now that Canadian judges understand the basics of child sexual abuse? And, if, as it seems that is not the case, surely it should be a given in a case of this magnitude that an expert should be put on the stand?

    I am at a loss to understand.

    This is troubling. Deeply troubling.

    As for Dejaeger/his lawyer claiming collusion – that was to be expected . As I understand it the majority of the complainants live and were raised in the small community of Igloolik. Of course they talk to each other. What are they supposed to do? Don’t spin benign and routine social interaction into conspiracy or collusion.

    Anyway, all is now on hold until 26 May. This is going to go on into the summer. Dejeager has a preliminary hearing scheduled in Edmonton for 31 July 2014. Will he make it? or will that have to be rescheduled, again?

    • Miecul says:

      I smell a big problem here. Kempt has planted a good seed of doubt in Kilpatrick’s head. Do our Judges take refresher courses, or are we to assume that they need help at each trial by way of an expert witness? But if the Crown did tell the Victims to play up or add certain parts into their testimony we could see Dejaeger get a slap or released with time served. Another hurry up and wait.

  2. 1yellowknife says:

    So DeJaeger was visibly upset.

    One would imagine he would have been visibly upset at courtroom evidence repeatedly portraying him as a monster. I watched him in court for hours. He appeared completely uncaring as testimony against him was given.

    No, he is upset and shows emotion because he will now be detained for a longer period of time. Yup, that fits.

    • Miecul says:

      He’s trying to play the poor me card. I hope the Judge isn’t foolish enough to buy it. It’s a tactic he has every right to play, it won’t work on me or anyone else with a sound way of thinking. Even if they did talk which they likely did. It’s a small community. I don’t think for an instant they would perjure themselves. He’s a sexual predator and needs to be kept behind bars for everyone protection. He still has to go to Edmonton in July for a preliminary hearing. If this Judge was having problems with an understanding he wasn’t sure of, all he had to do was ask. He’s a Judge isn’t he, or do they send the green one’s North……

  3. Michel Bertrand says:

    His detention was and has been of his choice. Consideration of that fact should come into play. The Oblates had one less brother to feed and care for. Kempt is portraying otherwise and the Crown is having mistakes in process trown in their face. The judge could request an experts consult if he wanted. The crown still has the option of a motion to request a community impact statement. Time will tell and the outcome will be publicly documented just hope it is just.

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