Questions about the age of an incest accused… after his trial

Questions about the age of an incest accused… after his trial
Questions about the age of an incest accused… after his trial

A two-day trial was heard in April by Judge Blanchette of the Court of Quebec. While deliberating to reach a verdict, Legal Aid lawyer Samuel Bouchard received new information casting doubt on the date the event occurred. Was his client an adult or a minor during the event?

“Already basically, the accusation was on a date quite close to my client’s date of birth, and in the year of his majority,” he says. The arrival of this new piece of evidence brought me even more doubts about the date when this could have happened and therefore, about the age of my client.

A request to reopen the investigation was therefore presented to Judge Blanchette “so that he can allow us to present this evidence,” explains Me Bouchard.

However, the criminal and penal prosecutor Me Raphaëlle Samson still believes that the accused was an adult at the time of the events. “The prosecution’s claim is that he was at least 18 years old at the time of the offenses,” she assures.

Point of law

For Me Bouchard, this point of law which was argued Thursday at the Sherbrooke courthouse “is very interesting”. “I think that considering that there is nothing in Quebec, it could be a good decision that can be made on what we do once the trial is already over.”

“This is not the first time in Quebec that we have questioned the age of an accused,” explains Me Bouchard. Normally, we know this in advance and we carry out the procedures in the Youth Chamber. We address the issue before going to trial. But this is the first time in Quebec that this question has arisen after the trial.”

Elsewhere in the country, “the court declined jurisdiction. He cannot therefore be declared guilty or acquitted. At this time, it is the public prosecutor who decides whether or not to initiate proceedings in the Youth Chamber,” explains the lawyer.

Doubt about age and minority

According to Me Bouchard of Legal Aid, “if any doubt remains as to the age on the majority line, we will give jurisdiction to the Youth Chamber and we will leave it to this judge to decide whether there is has proof beyond any doubt on the minority, on the majority or if doubt exists. In the event of a minority or if there is doubt about age, we remain in the Youth Chamber.

“If there is proof beyond any doubt on the majority and the procedures were carried out in the Youth Chamber, the judge will have the jurisdiction to impose a sentence for adults. We will not open a new file to redo the procedures,” continues Me Bouchard.

What a difference?

What does it change if an accused goes before the Youth Division or the Adult Criminal Division? “For adults, there is a minimum sentence for counts of incest,” replies the Crown prosecutor, Me Raphaëlle Samson. In the court for adolescents, there are specific sentences provided.

What’s more, in youth, there is no preliminary investigation, so the Jordan Decision time limit is set at 18 months rather than 30. Defense strategies can also change.

“We are 29 months into proceedings for my client,” describes Me Samuel Bouchard. If he had been a minor, it would have been over 11 months ago. My client has been in danger for 29 months because he made strategic choices in his adult case. Would these choices have been the same in a youth case? Maybe yes, maybe no. There would have been choices to make.”

Also, “the adult versus youth criminal process must be distinct to take into account the particularities of adolescents, such as immaturity and less moral culpability,” summarizes Me Samuel Bouchard.

Another very technical issue regarding the indictment filed against the 21-year-old is also in dispute in this case.

Judge Blanchette’s decision on this question of law will be rendered at the beginning of October.

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