Witness’s credibility attacked

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Pembroke Daily Observer

23 November 2011 

TINA PEPLINSKIE

tpeplinskie@thedailyobserver.ca

A witness’ credibility and motives were called into question during his second day of testimony at the trial of a Roman Catholic priest.

One of the alleged victims in the case against Monsignor Robert Borne returned to the stand Tuesday morning to continue responding to questions under cross-examination by Ottawa-based lawyer Robert Carew, counsel for Msgr. Borne.

On Monday, Msgr. Borne, 62, was arraigned on two counts each of indecent assault and gross indecency in relation to two male victims. The incidents are alleged to have occurred in 1977 and 1981.

The 49-year-old man, who cannot be identified because of a court-ordered publication ban, was questioned about the number of times he consumed alcohol while visiting Msgr. Borne at the rectory next to St. Columbkille Cathedral. Mr. Carew drew attention to inconsistencies between the witness’ evidence at trial and during his deposition of April 20, 2010, as the witness previously testified the alcohol consumption was sporadic, but during his first day on the stand he intimated he was offered alcohol on every visit.

Mr. Carew also questioned his evidence in relation to the first alleged incident in the second floor bedroom of the rectory. On Monday, the man testified that Msgr. Borne was wearing a short brown robe and white shorts, which he knew because when he rolled away from the priest to stop the sexual advances he turned to face the door, but last year he testified that he rolled away to face the window on the opposite side of the room.

“You don’t know what happened, because you are making it up as you go along,” Mr. Carew charged.

The alleged victim’s ulterior motives were questioned when Mr. Carew introduced various comments posted by the man on a website which keeps track of cases involving members of the Roman Catholic church and serves as an outlet for victims of sexual abuse to receive support from others.

Mr. Carew suggested the man had come forward in this case in order to advance his own agenda, as some of the postings contained false information about things that had happened in previous proceedings of the case and what defence counsel classified as ‘bragging’ or ‘smart aleck’ comments.

The alleged victim defended himself by saying he posted the comments in the hopes of helping others who have also been abused.

Mr. Carew also expressed some concerns about the man’s willingness to hand over documentation from the proceedings, further cementing his idea of the ulterior motives.

The man, however, testified that at the time of the posting he intended to hand over the transcripts and other documents at the conclusion of the trial, but told the court Tuesday he has not decided what he will do with this material.

On Tuesday, the court heard from the second victim in the case, now a 48-year-old man, who alleged Msgr. Borne assaulted him during a weekend getaway when he accompanied the priest to a parish in Renfrew County so he could perform mass while the regular clergy was away.

This trip came a couple of years after he first met the Roman Catholic priest through his brother and a couple of months after the (then) 16-year-old boy had started making regular visits to the rectory where Msgr. Borne lived at the time.

The interaction began as lunch-hour trips to the rectory with a group of friends and evolved into drop-in visits in the evening when he would consume alcohol while he and Msgr. Borne watched television and socialized as friends, the witness told the court.

Soon after his 16th birthday, the man and Msgr. Borne took the trip together. Although it was with the approval of his parents, he believes the pair worked out the details of the trip, which included a visit to Toronto to see the CN Tower.

On the Saturday night of the weekend, the boy and the priest stayed at the rectory in Griffith. The man testified he consumed some alcohol in the evening. He could not recall the specific sleeping arrangements, but admitted he felt drunk. At some point, he fell asleep but woke up to discover Msgr. Borne in the bed with him. He testified the priest french-kissed him then began to perform oral sex on him.

The man told the court he wasn’t expecting this type of contact with the priest, so he was startled and traumatized by the incident, which was over quickly. He could not recall how the encounter ended because he believes he blocked it out.

The next night, the then-teenager and Msgr. Borne stayed in a hotel room together, although the man told the court he made it clear at the time that he was not interested in any further sexual conduct. He testified that Msgr. Borne responded well and respected the decision.

The relationship between the two continued for some time, with Msgr. Borne lending his car to the teenager on a number of occasions and helping him with personal situations in his life.

During cross-examination, Mr. Carew questioned the man about other activities on the weekend, but he could not recall specifics of the itinerary. The defence suggested the man chose to get in the same bed with the accused, although the man could not recall the sleeping arrangement. Mr. Carew also suggested the kissing incident and oral sex was preceded by cuddling between the two parties, to which the man could not agree.

The alleged victim was asked why he didn’t leave or tell Msgr. Borne to stop, but he explained he was “paralyzed” by the incident.

Also taking the witness stand Tuesday was Detective Constable Jamie Trader of the Upper Ottawa Valley detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police, lead investigator in the case.

During questioning by Assistant Crown attorney John Pepper, he testified that during the course of his investigation into Bernard Prince, he received an anonymous tip that the second alleged victim to testify in the Msgr. Borne case may have been subject to inappropriate conduct by the priest and he should look into it.

He initially contacted the man in January 2008, at which time he confirmed there had been an incident. On April 14, 2008, Det. Const. Trader conducted a formal interview with the man and at the end of July he indicated he was willing to proceed with charges after considering the options presented by the officer and discussing it with his family.

The officer also testified that the first witness came forward in June 2009, three days after a media release was issued about charges concerning Msgr. Borne.

He stressed that the release contained only vague information in order to protect the integrity of the case and that during the course of the investigation, testimony and circumstances of the allegations were not shared between the witnesses.

During cross-examination, Mr. Carew suggested Det. Const. Trader continued to pursue the second alleged victim instead of him coming forward and saying he was ready to proceed with the charges against his client.

The officer testified it is always up to the alleged victims to decide to proceed with charges.

After resting the Crown’s case, Mr. Pepper made submissions on similar act evidence between the two alleged victims. He argued that the two men lived in different communities, went to different high schools and different churches at the time of the alleged incidents, so the evidence they presented at the trial is believable and should lead to a guilty verdict.

He noted they are dealing with two boys from Catholic homes, who Msgr. Borne formed social relationships with and provided alcohol to, with the alleged events taking place at night, in bed after the boys had been drinking. In his submission, Mr. Pepper said the details show substantive similarities. He added it should be considered that the witnesses told these similar stories without knowing what the other was saying.

Mr. Carew argued that the similarities between the two victims are not that evident, as one was 16 and one was 19 at the time of the alleged incidents and he pointed out differences in some of the details in the cases. He doesn’t believe there are any trademark distinguishing features, but just general allegations of sexual misconduct.

Madame Justice Julianne Parfett, who is hearing the case, is expected to give her decision this morning on whether she accepts Mr. Pepper’s similar act evidence argument. The trial continues today, when Mr. Carew is expected to begin the case for the defence.

Tina Peplinskie is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

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Comments on this Article.

I think the defence should ask the Bishop or Msgr. Borne if Borne has already been assigned to or promised a new parish. 16 and 19 yrs of age are no minors. They had 2 legs and could have gone away, taken Borne’s car to escape or told their parents and/or teachers at first opportunity. I don’t know but maybe back in the late 70’s there was not a law about mandatory reporting. People should be asking what happened to all the other charges supposedly from Eganville parish. Paid off or evidence simply too weak? To this day guys over 16 put themselves in the presence of priests and doctors etc a little too much and no one says anything, except when they see a chance of settlement money. In the Cornwall cases young men on probation were said to regularly spent cottage weekends with probation officers, jail guards, police, clergy, a judge or two, and lots of booze and money, etc. Google it.

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