Former gymnastics coach Michel Arsenault, who had been facing multiple counts of sexual assault and assault in connection with five former gymnasts, was granted a stay of proceedings Thursday.
Arsenault requested the stay last year, accusing investigators of not properly disclosing evidence and of "contaminating" witnesses. The request was granted in a Montreal courtroom on Thursday.
The court agreed with the argument put forward by Arsenault's lawyer, namely that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) was negligent.
"By acting as they did, the police carried out a botched investigation, collecting only the evidence that was consistent with their theory of events and thus deliberately failing to keep all the evidence obtained," the ruling says.
The SQ refused to comment.
The Crown's office, meanwhile, offered words of support to the alleged victims.
"What we want is for the process to be just and fair and unfortunately, in this file, we were no longer in a position to meet that burden," said Rachelle Pitre, Deputy Chief Prosecutor at the DPCP. Quebec's provincial prosecutor's office.
"We have empathy toward [the alleged victims] and today we want to emphasize their resilience and courage in testifying during the preliminary inquiry."
Arsenault's lawyer, Roxane Hamelin, stated in her motion for the stay that investigators in the case failed to take any notes in their interviews with the alleged victims or in the course of their investigation.
According to the defence, one of the investigators also shared inside information with one of the alleged victims who, in turn, used that information "to communicate with other alleged victims and encourage them to pursue the process already underway."
Arsenault, 58, was arrested in Edmonton in 2018, and was charged with two counts of sexual assault and three counts of assault, in relation to five alleged victims — all ex-gymnasts who he coached in Montreal between 1983 and 1993.
Two of them were minors at the time of the alleged sexual assaults.
Pitre said it took courage and resilience for victims to come forward and testify during the preliminary inquiry. It's not easy, Ptire said, expecially because there ia cross examination.
The court's decision is not at all related to witness testimony, nor to their credibility, said Audrey Roy-Cloutier, a spokesperson for the DPCP.