Montreal

Majority of sexual harassment, assault allegations never get to court in these Quebec cities

In several Quebec cities, more than three-quarters of sexual harassment and assault allegations brought to police don’t result in the perpetrator being formally accused, according to an investigation by Radio-Canada.

More than 75% of accusations didn't lead to charges in Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières

A Trois-Rivières public safety spokesman said police gather all the available information for the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions to decide whether or not to lay charges. (Sebastian Duda/Shutterstock)

In several Quebec cities, more than three-quarters of sexual harassment and assault allegations brought to police don't result in the perpetrator being formally accused, according to an investigation by Radio-Canada.

The data for Saguenay, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières was obtained for the years 2013 to 2017, under the Access to Information Act.

In Saguenay, 77 per cent of allegations did not lead to charges while Trois-Rivières has a similar number with 78.5 per cent. For Sherbrooke, it was 75.5 per cent.

By grouping the 2013 to 2017 data for the three cities, Radio-Canada found that very few complaints — only 22.87 per cent — lead to charges.

According to Statistics Canada, only one in five sexual assaults reported to police nationwide led to a completed court case between 2009 and 2014.

Very few false accusations, says researcher

"Research shows that there are very few women who will make false accusations of sexual assault," said Simon Lapierre, a professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

Lapierre is part of the team that conducted an extensive study to document the experiences of female victims of violence during legal proceedings.

He said that some cities approach sexual assault cases differently — like Philadelphia, for example, where police work with women's rights groups.

Lapierre believes that such collaboration "is really the key to better understanding what is happening in different regions and what can be put in place to try to address this problem."

Simon Lapierre, a professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa. (Submitted Simon Lapierre)

Policing methods

In Trois-Rivières, public safety spokesman Luc Mongrain said that crimes against the person, such as sexual assault, are given priority.

A team of five investigators work specifically on these files.

He explained that the police gather all the available information for the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions to decide whether or not to lay charges.

"Unfortunately, if the numbers are not up to the expectations of the population, there may be another question to be raised," he said.

"The final outcome will ultimately be made in the courts."

However, he added that when a complaint is logged with police, the suspected in the case remains on file.

This means, for example, that an employer who does an investigation before hiring someone will know that they were the subject of a sexual assault allegation.

With files from Radio-Canada's Claudie Simard

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