Stay of proceedings for ex-gymnastics coach facing sex assault charges in Montreal

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MONTREAL — A former gymnastics coach facing assault and sex assault charges received a stay of proceedings Thursday due to major issues with the notes of a police investigator.

Michel Arsenault, 59, was arrested in 2018 and charged in connection with events allegedly committed in Montreal in the 1980s and early 1990s. The initial charges allegedly involved six gymnasts between 10 and 20 years of age, whom he had coached.

Ahead of his trial scheduled for March, he still faced five counts, including one of sexual assault and three of assault.

But a document tabled by prosecutors in court Thursday cited major deficiencies in the note-taking of a Quebec provincial police investigator, particularly regarding interviews and statements by complainants and witnesses. Prosecutors concluded they could not continue legal proceedings "without greatly affecting the right of the accused to a fair and equitable trial."

Prosecutors had become aware of the problem during Arsenault's preliminary hearing and Arsenault's lawyer had filed a stay request at the time.

Provincial police declined to comment on the case Thursday.

Audrey Roy-Cloutier, a spokesperson for Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions, said the decision had nothing to do with the credibility of the complainants, who were informed of the decision before it was made public.

"We are taking this opportunity to underline their resilience and the courage they have shown, particularly during their testimony during the preliminary investigation," Roy-Cloutier said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press