Verdict expected April 1 in case of former priest

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Court: Charles Jean Picot is charged with indecent assault

Telegraph Journal

Published Thursday February 10th, 2011

Trevor McNally
Canadaeast News Service

CAMPBELLTON – The verdict of Judge Ronald LeBlanc in the case of former Dalhousie priest Charles Jean Picot will be rendered on April 1.

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Trevor McNally/Tribune
Former priest Charles Jean Picot is shown in this file photo leaving Campbellton Provincial Court with two female supporters.

Picot, who is charged with indecent assault on John Derek Lapointe when Picot was a priest at Ste.-Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic Church in Dalhousie over 30 years ago, resumed in Campbellton Provincial Court on Tuesday.

It was adjourned on Jan. 25 in order for Judge LeBlanc to rule on a Crown request to amend the dates in the charge against Picot. On Tuesday, LeBlanc ruled in favour of the Crown application, a small but possibly important victory for the Crown.

The original charge alleged that the crime had been committed between Jan. 1, 1978, and Dec. 31, 1978. During the first part of Picot’s trial Jan. 24-25, Lapointe (who asked that no publication ban be placed on his identity) testified that he had been in the Boy Scouts when Picot asked him to come visit him in the priests’ house next to the church.

Lapointe, now 47, said that the two were listening to Saturday Night Fever, an album that Picot had just purchased, when Picot asked Lapointe to come sit with him. Lapointe testified that he was sitting on Picot’s lap when Picot put his arms around him and slid his hand down the front of his pants and touched him.

Lapointe, sometimes unsure of times and dates, said that the incident had occurred in 1978, when he was 13. He thought that it was after school had begun, because he recalled he was in Grade 8 at L.E. Reinsborough School in Dalhousie.

After being cross-examined by defence counsel Gilles Lemieux, Lapointe was excused and the Crown closed its case on Jan. 24. Lemieux immediately asked for a recess until the next day so he could speak to Crown prosecutor Francois Doucet. It was revealed the next morning that Picot was enrolled in university in Ottawa in the fall of 1978 and therefore unable to have committed the offence because he wasn’t in Dalhousie.

LeBlanc ruled against the Crown in its bid to allow Lapointe to testify again. It was then that Doucet asked LeBlanc to amend the charge to change the initial date to 1977 instead of 1978.

No decision was made at that time. Picot, now in his 60s, took the witness box and testified that he was in the town from 1975 to the fall of 1978, before leaving for university in Ottawa. Lemieux produced a letter from the school dated May 17, 2010, to confirm Picot’s presence in Ottawa. After Picot’s testimony, the matter was put over for Judge LeBlanc to consider the Crown request.

On Tuesday, Judge LeBlanc ruled that Lemieux was bound to provide the Crown with notice of the alibi defence, since he knew it before the trial and had the letter.

“The failure to provide the Crown with that document would not allow for a fair trial. In my opinion. Mr. Lemieux was obligated to provide the Crown with that piece of disclosure,” LeBlanc ruled in a written decision.

He then cited a number of Supreme Court of Canada cases to back his ruling. One of those states that a complainant who was a child at the time of the offence need not know the exact date of that offence, but only a general time frame.

Lemieux asked for a brief recess and on the court re-convening, closed the case for the defence.

Both lawyers then made their closing arguments. Lemieux argued that there was much reasonable doubt, pointing out what he considered to be credibility issues following Lapointe’s testimony. He said that Lapointe recalled only some of his past and that he was definite the crime occurred when he started Grade 8 in 1978.

Doucet countered that while there were errors in Lapointe’s testimony relating to the year, he was very clear on what happened and provided details on how Picot had stuck his hand down Lapointe’s pants. He also pointed out the Supreme Court’s finding that exact dates are not to be weighed too heavily when the victim is a child.

LeBlanc said the case was too complicated to render a decision right away, and put it over until April 1.

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