Former priest faces new trial

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Judges say case that ended in acquittal should be heard again

Times & Transcript (New Brunswick)

Published Friday August 19th, 2011 

FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s highest court has ordered a new trial for a former priest recently acquitted of a charge of indecent assault alleged to have happened more than three decades ago.

Charles Picot will be tried again following a split 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 at the time of the alleged 1975 incident and who is no longer an active member of the clergy, 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, Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette found that 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 A. 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.

“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 J.C. Marc Richard wrote the dissenting opinion, saying he could not subscribe to ordering a new trial and that 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. He understood the meaning of reasonable doubt,” Richard wrote.

No date has been set for a new trial.

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