Court | Two of three judges overseeing appeal rule trial judge erred in decision
Published Saturday August 20th, 2011
By SHAWN BERRY
New Brunswick’s highest court has ordered a new trial for a former priest recently acquitted of an indecent assault alleged to have happened more than three decades ago.
Charles Picot, who’s no longer an active member of the clergy, will be tried again following a 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.
Picot, who was a priest at St-Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic Church in Bouctouche at the time of the alleged 1975 incident, was accused of committing the crime against a parishioner, Michael Jensen, who was 13 at the time.
Jensen asked the court not to place a publication ban on his name.
Though he expressed doubts about Picot’s testimony, the trial judge, Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette, found the Crown had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Crown filed the appeal in the case that pitted the testimony of a complainant against that of an accused.
Justice Richard Bell wrote the decision on behalf of himself and Justice Kathleen Quigg.
“The trial judge’s conclusion that Mr. Jensen’s testimony lacked corroboration simply does not square with the evidence and with his own findings,” Bell wrote.
“That being the case, I am of the view he erred by concluding that corroborative or confirmatory evidence must be directly related to one or more of the essential elements of the charge. In the event he did not err in that regard, he erred by not considering the Mr. Jensen’s testimony. Consequently, I would allow the appeal and order a new trial.”
Justice Marc Richard wrote the dissenting opinion, saying he couldn’t subscribe to ordering a new trial and he would have dismissed the appeal.
“In the present case, the judge did not believe the accused, but, upon considering the evidence, including the testimony of the complainant’s brother as well as portions of the accused’s testimony that corroborated parts of the complainant’s version, the judge nevertheless harboured a reasonable doubt,” Richard wrote.
“He understood the meaning of reasonable doubt.”
No date has been set for a new trial.