Gross indecency and sexual assault charges dropped after Crown finds no reasonable prospect of conviction
The Eganville Leader
13 November 2013
By Debbi Christnick Staff Writer
Pembroke — The Crown has withdrawn the charges of gross indecency and sexual assault against retired Diocese of Pembroke priest Father Howard Chabot and the case will not proceed against him.
The charges were withdrawn on Tuesday morning during a scheduled court appearance by Father Chaobt who was accused of molesting a young man in the 1980s. Crown Attorney Jason Nicol said the Crown decided to withdraw the charge be cause of the poor chance of obtaining a conviction.
“I determined there was no reasonable prospect of conviction,” he said. “That is the threshold we use to determine whether a prosecution should proceed. It was my assessment we did not reach that threshold, so we chose not to proceed.”
At the same time as the charges were withdrawn by the Crown, the publication ban was lifted on the name of the complainant. Mr. Nicol said the publication ban was lifted at the request of the complainant who has been identified as Gerald Sonier.
Usually, court imposed publication bans are always in place in sexual abuse trials to protect the identity of the alleged victims.
“It is unusual,” Mr. Nicol said. “Most of the times the publication bans are to protect the identity of the complainant, but this was his very clear stated desire.”
As far as this complainant is concerned the investigation by police against Father Chabot is not continuing, Mr. Nicol said.
“These things are never over, but in regards to this complainant that is the end,” he said. “If further information comes forward in the future things are always open, but for now this is it.”
There was only one complainant in this case.
Father Chabot was charged in July with gross indecency and sexual assault. The police investigation began in British Columbia in March 2013 and was turned over to Ontario Provincial Police in June.
Father Chabot was a priest at Holy Name in Pembroke when the incident allegedly took place almost 30 years ago. The alleged victim, now identified as Mr. Sonier, came forward about an incident which occurred in 1985.
Father Chabot was ordained in 1968 and retired in 2005 when he was serving at Our Lady of Lourdes in Pembroke because of health problems. Father Chabot also served in Westmeath, Lapasse, Braeside and Sheenboro. He also served as a youth probation officer and chaplain for both the Pembroke Police Service and the Pembroke Jail.
Father Chabot was the fourth priest in the Diocese of Pembroke to be charged with historical sexual assault. Renfrew native Father Dan Miller pled guilty in June to five charges of sexual assault relating to five victims. He is due in court later this month for his sentencing. Wilno native Bernard Prince was found guilty on 13 counts of sexual assault on young boys. Pembroke native Msgr. Robert Bourne was found guilty on two charges relating to one victim.
The Leader contacted the Diocese of Pembroke but no statement was made available prior to publication deadline. Attempts to reach Father Chabot were unsuccessful