A Quebec judge is facing scathing criticism and seeks a conduct review after providing a conditional discharge to a man who pleaded guilty to sexual assault—and citing concerns about the man’s career.
Mathieu Poliquin was appointed last year to Quebec’s provincial court by the province’s minister of justice, Simon Jolin-Barrett, and is now being criticized for saying in his sentencing decision that a criminal record has “a negative impact” on an engineering career. significant impact”. Simon Hawley.
Haule, of Trois-Rivires, Ky., pleaded guilty last year to sexual assault and voyeurism.
Now, a Quebec women’s rights group is holding a rally outside the Palais de Justice du Québec in downtown Montreal at noon on Thursday to “denounce the decision issued by Poliquin.”
“We are outraged and outraged at this regressive decision that still defends the attackers,” wrote the organizers of the Center Femmes d’Ozzard’Huey Posting for Rally on a Facebook Event,
“Tomorrow, come join us to shout your rebellion in front of the courthouse, to condemn the penal system that is designed to protect abusers, their careers and their reputations to the detriment of their victims.”
According to the court’s ruling, the victim was “awakened by a camera light” after she fell asleep at a friend’s house in 2019 after drinking alcohol at a bar with a group of friends. , reported The Canadian Press.
The court’s decision stated that his shirt was taken off and his bra was unbuttoned.
The woman “panicked” and went to the kitchen, where the accused followed her and brought her back to bed. A search of his phone would later reveal that he had taken nine pictures.
Hawley admitted during therapy to assaulting another person in 2015, and Poliquin described that admission as concerning but said it also showed a “desire for transparency.”
Poliquin also wrote in the judgment that the attack happened “all too quickly”, adding that Hawley had taken therapy seriously and sincerely regretted his actions.
“A sentence other than discharge would have a significant impact on his career as an engineer,” the judge wrote. “It is in the general interest that the accused, an asset to the society, can continue his professional career.”
critics of the verdict on social media Canadians concerned about the judge have also been urged to file a complaint with Le Conseil de la Magistrate, the independent body that hears complaints about the conduct of provincial court judges in criminal cases.
At the same time, some calls have come on Twitter and reddit For the people to submit complaints about Haule on the basis of his guilty plea to the Ordre des Engineers du Québec, the professional body that recognizes engineers in the province.
Neither the Judicial Council nor the Engineering Order would confirm to Global News how many complaints they had received in the matter, despite several photos of complaints being posted online.
Anne-Claude Bergeron, lawyer and secretary of the Judicial Council, said: “Unfortunately, I cannot answer your questions because all complaints remain confidential until the Conseil de la magistrate decides, if necessary, So after examining it, to investigate.” E-mail.
A spokesman for the Ordre des Engineers du Québec offered similar comment.
“Ordre des Engineers du Québec takes seriously the prestige and dignity attached to the title of Engineer. However, under professional law, the Order cannot comment on a specific file. Investigations and requests for investigation are themselves confidential,” the spokesperson said. Told.
In the statement, the Ordre des Engineers du Québec also said that anyone who observes a “reprehensible” act by an engineer may file a complaint and, if the order decides that discipline is required after investigation, So the existence of the complaint will be made public.
“It should be noted that the Professional Code provides that members of the Professional Order – including engineers – may be subject to disciplinary sanction if they are found guilty or convicted of a criminal offense,” the statement continued.
“The sanctions subject to which a member convicted of an offense is subject to vary according to the severity of the acts committed.”
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Michael Spratt, a criminal defense attorney in Ottawa, said conditional discharge in sexual assault cases has become more rare in Canadian law in recent years.
“I would say this is an exceptionally unusual thing,” he said.
“Especially in the last five years, they are few and far between.”
Spratt said directives issued in the Courts of Appeals, as well as decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada, have emphasized in recent years that the punishment for sexual assault must be severe, even for first-time offenders. , because crimes have a profoundly harmful effect on individuals. and society.
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And while he said that the use of conditional discharge in the present case appears to be “extraordinary and a bit shocking,” Spratt insisted on the appropriate channel to challenge any concerns about the basis of the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeals. .
“We have seen this kind of response in other cases. It’s hard because we don’t have all the same facts as the judge.”
Spratt emphasized that the justice system has established avenues for challenging decisions, reflecting the general reality that “judges can and do make mistakes.”
“That’s why we have courts of appeal, and it’s right for the public to disagree with the decision, to express displeasure with the decision. But we have to be very careful not to overly criticize or call for the removal of a judge at fault. Judiciary Freedom is very important.”
He continued: “The last thing we want to see is to bring politics to the bench.”
A spokesman for the Quebec Justice Minister said the province passed a law on November 30, 2021, requiring anyone to become a judge in the province to take special training on sexual assault laws and the challenges faced by victims.
This also applies to retired judges who wish to return to the bench.
The Conseil de la Magistrate administers training for judges in the province and will need to submit its first report after March 2023 on how many judges have undergone training.
“The Department of Justice will await the first version of this report,” said Isabel Boilly, a spokeswoman for the minister’s office, in an email on Wednesday.
Boily said that Quebec’s law “goes beyond federal law, particularly because it requires retired judges of the peace and retired presiding judges of the peace to be presented by the Conseil de la magistrate when newly appointed to sit.” have completed the training programme.
“Out of respect for legal process, we will not comment further,” she said.
Poliquin was appointed to the bench in September 2021.
The federal government passed a law in May 2021 requiring new federally appointed judges to have specialized training in sexual assault law, as part of an effort to combat sexism and prejudice against sexual assault victims in the legal system.
Justice Minister David Lametti would not comment when asked whether he believes there should be a review or study of how conditional discharge is used in sexual assault cases.
“Our government is fully committed to ensuring that Canada’s criminal justice system shows compassion to victims, holds criminals accountable and upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Chantal Aubertin, Lametti’s press secretary. said in an email.
“In view of this the matter is being appealed [DPCP]It would be unfair to comment.”
The DPCP is the Directeur des pomsuites criminelles et penales, or Crown Prosecutor, for the province, and has confirmed it will seek leave to appeal the decision.
— Rachel Gilmore of Global and . with files of Canadian Press.
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