The three fugitives who escaped via helicopter from a jail near Quebec City over the weekend recently had their security conditions relaxed — including not having to wear handcuffs during court proceedings, and being able to go outside in the jail's courtyard, in the presence of guards, on days they were scheduled to appear in court.
The information comes to light after a publication ban on some court documents was partially lifted Thursday afternoon after a request was filed by CBC News and other media.
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The security conditions of Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, were relaxed on March 24, after a judge partially granted their request.
The application for lax conditions was presented by inmate Thierry Béland and the three fugitives.
Since April, Lefebvre, Pomerleau and Denis have been at court proceedings at the Quebec City courthouse for drug trafficking charges.
No handcuffs, hot lunches
The documents that were made partially public today state that under the new lax security conditions, the inmates did not need to be handcuffed during hearings at the courthouse and were required to be restrained at the ankles only.
Lefebvre, Denis and Pomerleau were also allowed to have a pencil and notepad in court and to get a hot lunch.
Also, on days when they were to appear in court, the men were allowed to go outside to use the jail’s courtyard if guards were present.
However, the fugitives escaped on a Saturday night, when there was no court proceeding. It remains unclear who authorized the three men to go outside that day.
Access to a computer
Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Dionne also partially lifted a publication ban on another judgment rendered in March concerning the possibility of Pomerleau having a laptop in his cell.
The judgment ordered the jail’s management to allow Pomerleau to have access to a computer "to study the evidence" to allow the inmate to prepare his defence. However, the judge had required that the inmate pay for the computer and update it so that it had no link with the outside world.
Opposition demands minister’s resignation
In the wake of the documents made partially public Thursday, the Parti Québécois demanded the resignation of Public Security Minister Lise Thériault.
“Since last Saturday we had a lot of bad information and confusion and Minister Thériault has to step down,” said Pascal Berubé, the PQ’s public security critic.
On Monday, Theriault implied that a judge had ordered the conditions imposed on the three be eased.
Berubé said that the documents released today show that the inmates' security conditions were only relaxed on days when they had court proceedings.
Thériault said she will not step down.
“I always carried out my responsibilities with rigour. I always answered questions. I was always very transparent,” Thériault said in the National Assembly.
Thériault suggested she was being lied to by someone inside the government, because she said she is receiving contradictory information about the case.
She ordered an administrative investigation.
Premier Philippe Couillard said the minister has his full confidence.