Going inside the Silva ‘flee’ deal

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CHCH TV Hamilton, Ontario

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

CHCH News went looking for answers as to how and why a deal was made to allow a Hamilton priest to leave the country, instead of standing trial on sexual assault charges.

Father Jose Silva is now living as a free man back in his native Brazil and may have escaped punishment here in Canada. But it is said that Father Silva was ready to stand trial and plead not guilty to the charge of sexual assault. The trial never came however as a result of the deal between the crown and defence.

The deal itself is that Father Silva would be allowed to leave the country, but he could never return. According to Silva’s lawyer Dean Paquette, the crown insisted on having Father Silva miss a court date which then would result in a Canada-wide warrant that would ensure Father Silva could not return. Paquette says the deal between the two sides is a form of justice that fit the unique circumstances of this case.

“So if someone else looks at it, it’s a sense that it should have gone to trial. But it didn’t have to go to trial. The parties that had a keen knowledge of the facts, knowledge of the justice system felt it didn’t have to go to trial. And, if someone were to be made aware of this, and was open-minded about the reasons for diversion, I think they’d agree with it.”

Father Silva began working at St Mary’s Church in 2009. Just 34 years old, he had been ordained back in 2003. He came to Canada as a learning experience, but that all ended after he was charged with sexual assault after an alleged incident with an 18 year old man in September of last year.

Paquette says that if his client was found guilty, he would at most have been given a small jail term. But he did face significant punishment as a result of being charged. “There were consequences to padre Silva, public notoriety is not the least of them. He essentially lost his position here in the church, humiliation of being charged, required to remain in Canada from September to late April are significant consequences.”

Paquette says this is an unusual case but diversions are common in the event that all parties are satisfied. The crown in this case is on leave and is not available for comment. We also contacted the attorney generals office and received this e-mail: “We understand that the Crown and defence entered into an agreement that would see the accused return to Brazil without being prosecuted on condition that he not return to Canada. A bench warrant has been issued. The victim was consulted. As part of the agreement, he will be prosecuted if he returns to Canada.”

“This is not common practice and we will look into this matter further.”

When asked how they will investigate, they declined further comment. While they said he was consulted, they did not clarify if the victim gave his support to this deal, although Paquette says that he is confident that the victim did in fact support this deal.

Part of the issue that we wanted to address with the crown is the fact that Father Silva did not get his day in court. There was no chance for a definitive verdict to find out if indeed Father Silva was guilty of this crime. Without that we are left to wonder if a potentially innocent man’s reputation has been tarnished in this country, or if the system has allowed an offender to go free.

Video: Sean Leathong reports:

COMMENTS

  • Friday, 27 July 2012 posted by unknownAs a long standing member of St. Mary’s parish. People say that we have had alot of festivals with children around and nothing like this has ever happened. Yes that is correct but at the same time what if something like this has happened and the family of the victim has convinced the victim to stay quiet about the situation. That is what is said happened in this situation but the young man had the courage to stand up to his family, friends and put someone in their place. If Father Silva or should I say now Mr Silva was indeed innocent why was this deal even made. Clearly Mr Silva’s lawyers had information and knew that this would be a tough trial to win and instead of going through the humiliation of losing and being proven guilty. This deal was struck and clearly once again without thinking about the victim.
  • Comment Link Thursday, 12 July 2012 posted by RitaI think what they had done to Father Silva has been more than enough punishment. As the have no proof of any kind, and no witnesses regarding this matter. We here in Hamilton, for the time he was here with us he only demonstrated respect kindness and a man with a lot of faith. Here in Hamilton we had a lot of festivals and groups with a lot of kids who participated, and we never had a problem with Father Silva in our parish. From the time that he was accused he continued to respect his; Faith, everyone, and the law. So there was no need for Father Silva to “flee” the country.

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