Judge to hand down Borne verdict today

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Pembroke Daily Observer

25 November 2011

By Tina Peplinskie tpeplinskie@thedailyobserver.ca

The fate of a Roman Catholic priest on trial for his alleged sexual misconduct in the hands of a Superior Court judge.

On Thursday morning lawyer Robert Carew, counsel for 63-year-old Monsignor Robert Borne, and Assistant Crown attorney John Pepper made their closing arguments in front of Madame Justice Julianne Parfett. She will give her verbal decision Friday morning.

Msgr. Borne is facing two charges each of gross indecency and indecent assault on teenage males. The incidents are alleged to have occurred in 1979 and 1981. The complainants, now in their 40s, testified during the trial.

Mr. Carew urged Justice Parfett to acquit his client on the charges if she finds his evidence to be believable and plausible, adding there is no reason for it to be rejected because Msgr. Borne testified in a straight-forward manner without contradictions.

Mr. Carew does not believe it is possible to convict the priest because of the evidence provided by the alleged victims, particularly the now 49-year-old man who accused the priest of attempting to perform fallacio when he slept over at the rectory next to St. Columbkille Cathedral, where Msgr. Borne lived at the time.

Mr. Pepper feels the testimony of the accused isn’t believable and did not raise a reasonable doubt on its own. He added that although the accused is an intelligent, well-educated man, his evidence was not in accordance with logic and common sense. The crown attorney explained this by using Msgr. Borne’s own testimony which was that he continued to see the second alleged victim despite feeling threatened by him because he wanted to show the young man the good face of the church.

Mr. Carew highlighted a number of contradictions in the alleged victim’s testimony from different accounts of which way he turned in the bed to stop the first alleged incident in the bedroom, to whether or not his briefs were removed during the incident.

“His story keeps changing and it is not on minor details,” the defence attorney told the court. “This is not evidence on which it is safe to convict.”

He added the witness cannot be believed in terms of anything he said.

While Mr. Pepper acknowledged there were contractions in the alleged victim’s evidence, he does not believe the inconsistencies occurred on what he called hard, factual matters. He feels the core evidence provided by the witness remained the same throughout. He asked the judge to consider the similarities between the alleged incidents involving the two complainants, the fact that the boys were strangers to each other and that they did not have an opportunity to know what the other testimony was to assess the reliability and credibility.

Mr. Carew accused the older man of having ulterior motives, including financial, and a hidden agenda for participating in the trial. He used the witness’ own postings on a website that monitors ongoing cases involving the Roman Catholic church and serves as a support for victims to make his point. He noted a number of the postings contain misrepresentations made by the alleged victim about evidence he had given during previous proceedings. In his writings the man also offered up transcripts from the trial which has concluded, so Mr. Carew speculated that he tried to make his testimony more colourful for the benefit of those that would be reading the transcripts.

“He is not an independent or trustworthy witness,” he said.

As far as the witness’ input on the website, Mr. Pepper pointed out the postings were done late at night and he believes the man substituted what he wished he’d said for what was actually said because he was intending them to offer support for witnesses in other cases.

In relation to the second witness, the defence noted the now 48-year-old man couldn’t recall important details around the alleged sexual contact, including whose idea it was to share the bed at the rectory in Griffith or how much alcohol he consumed, if he consumed alcohol prior to the alleged incident or who provided the alcohol. Mr. Carew added that it is easy now some 30 years after the alleged incident to say he didn’t consent to the contact, but he couldn’t recall exactly what he said or his feeling or frame of mind at the time.

“Maybe he was embarrassed to say he had exploratory sexual contact with my client,” Mr. Carew said, referring to Msgr. Borne’s testimony that he and the then 16-year-old boy engaged in mutual groping following a conversation about sex. Although the man could not recall how the alleged incident stopped, Msgr. Borne testified that he stopped it because neither were getting anything out of the experience.

Mr. Pepper reminded the judge that when questioned about his motivation for fondling the then 16-year-old boy’s genitals, suggesting there was only one response which was his own pleasure, Msgr. Borne would not concede the point.

“There was only one answer for a departure from everything proper and important to take a risk for sexual pleasure, but he denies the obvious explanation for his actions,” the crown attorney said. “It may be that Robert Borne came to believe that himself. He is misleading the court, whether he was doing it because he’s misled himself or avoiding the consequences of his actions.”from page A1

The defence believes this witness, who was allegedly assaulted in 1979, was reluctant to come forward because he was not sure of the incident or if he had a legitimate complaint. These comments are in relation to the fact that he was contacted by police three times during the course of the investigation but he never contacted the police.

Mr. Pepper noted there was nothing in the case to suggest the alleged victim was motivated by anger or financial gain to speak with the police about the investigation. Although he took some time to decide the depth of his involvement, he ultimately made the decision to proceed with the charges, the court heard during the course of the trial.

Although the witness could not remember the details surrounding the alleged event, it is Mr. Pepper’s submission that was because there was nothing memorable about the day until he was allegedly kissed by the accused, who then attempted to perform fallacio on the boy, according to the witness’ testimony.

“The core of his evidence is unshaken and his credibility is unchallenged in these proceedings,” Mr. Pepper said. “He has no bias, motive or grudge.”

Court resumes at 10 a.m. this morning with the judge’s decision in the case.

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