Priest found guilty of sexual assault

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Kingston Whig Standard

Friday, January 17, 2014 7:27:37 EST PM

By Sue Yanagisawa, Kingston Whig-Standard

Former Catholic priest Rene Paul Emile Labelle leaves court in Kingston on Friday Jan. 17, after being convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy 10 years ago.<br />
IAN MACALPINE/KINGSTON WHIG-STANDARD/QMI AGENCY

Former Catholic priest Rene Paul Emile Labelle leaves court in Kingston on Friday Jan. 17, after being convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy 10 years ago. IAN MACALPINE/KINGSTON WHIG-STANDARD/QMI AGENCY

KINGSTON – A retired Catholic priest, who earlier this week denied allegations that he sexually molested a teenage boy on Wolfe Island about 10 years ago, has been convicted on all counts.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Rene Paul Emile Labelle in mid-April and, in addition to the pre-sentence report requested by his defence counsel, Justice Timothy Ray ordered a sexual assessment of the priest prepared.

In delivering his decision Friday, Justice Ray said: “I found a lack of candour from the defendant,” when he was giving his evidence.

Labelle was charged with sexually assaulting the boy — now a man — when he was in his mid-teens and with touching him for a sexual purpose and inviting the complainant to touch him for a sexual purpose, the latter two offences aggravated by being breaches of trust.

The complainant testified in the opening days of the trial that Labelle — who was appointed to Wolfe Island’s Sacred Heart of Mary in July 2004 — invited him to spend a summer day on the island and sleep that night at the rectory.

He recounted Labelle taking him for a swim at the beaches of Wolfe Island’s Big Sandy Bay — a spot he’d never been before and hasn’t been since — and being startled by the priest’s bathing suit, which has been characterized by the lawyers as a revealing “Speedo”. Labelle’s accuser, however, described it as looking more like an abbreviated athletic jock.

The complainant also testified that leaving the beach, Labelle tried three or four times to catch and hold his hand on the way back to his truck. And later that night, after he’d gone to bed, he testified that Labelle came into his room wearing a purple vestment, pulled back his covers, and began touching his genitals.

Earlier that night, by the complainant’s account, Labelle had told him about a spectral priest in vestments said to haunt the halls of the rectory.

Labelle, testifying in his own defence, denied almost all of it — even that the boy had spent a night at the rectory — admitting only to the revealing bathing suit and the ghost story.

He told Justice Ray the haunting, however, was attached to the old rectory, which by then had been converted to a bed and breakfast. He said he couldn’t remember exactly what he’d told the teen about the ghost. He claimed, in addition, that he didn’t see his bathing suit as a problem, especially since he’d asked the boy if he was OK with it and received no complaint.

“What did he expect a 16-year-old to say?” Justice Ray asked, pointedly.

He told the packed courtroom: “I do not accept the defendant’s evidence and it does not leave me with a reasonable doubt.”

He found the complainant and his parents, by contrast, to be truthful witnesses.

In reviewing the entirety of the evidence, the judge said: “I don’t think the defendant’s conduct should be looked at as a simple breach of rules” — as his defence lawyer, John Ecclestone, previously argued.

He found the priest’s choice of beach wear that day was intended to be sexually provocative and his later attempt at hand holding, “was a further effort to measure (the teen’s) reaction to a sexual encounter.”

Justice Ray indicated that he found it inconceivable Labelle, with all of his experience in both church and educational settings, could have innocently violated so many standards of conduct.

He noted, for example, that Labelle, by his own admission, invited the boy to spend time with him on Wolfe Island without first clearing it with his parents.

He also found that, contrary to what Labelle testified, “I don’t believe the purpose of (the invitation to) visit was to discuss the priesthood.”

He also found it incredible that Labelle, having cultivated a relationship with a boy he admitted to considering exceptional, would have simply shrugged off their estrangement in the teen’s senior year, as he claims he did.

sue.yanagisawa@sunmedia.ca

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