Charges against ex-daycare operator Hedwidge Surette withdrawn
Surette was to stand trial on 5 sex-related charges but Crown says new information came to light
Sex-related charges against a former Notre-Dame daycare operator have been dropped.
Hedwidge Surette, 65, was scheduled to stand trial in Moncton court on Monday on charges of sexual interference, sexual assault, invitation to sexual touching, sexual assault by more than one accused against a single victim, and forcible confinement involving a boy under the age of 14.
But Crown prosecutor Annie St. Jacques withdrew all five charges, based on new evidence that contradicts information in the Crown's file. St. Jacques could not immediately be reached for comment.
One of Surette's lawyers, Hazen Brien, told CBC News the Crown made the decision to withdraw the charges after the defence took the unusual step of sharing its evidence in advance of the trial.
'Strong doubt,' defence says
"We gave them our list of witnesses, we gave them our witnesses' statements and said, 'If you wish to interview these people, go right ahead. They are going to indicate that in their opinion the offences did not occur,'" said Brien.
"It's not a tactic that's done often, but if you're comfortable with your evidence, that it will not be shaken, sometimes it will lead to the withdrawal of charges. And that's exactly what happened here."
Brien declined to discuss the specific nature of the defence's evidence, but suggested they raised questions about the credibility of the complainant.
"I think both parties have arrived at the conclusion that there's a doubt — and a strong doubt — that this ever happened," he said. "The Crown just didn't feel comfortable going ahead with it."
Surette did not appear in court. Brien said she is "happy that the matter is finally over."
Surette was charged in June 2013. The offences were alleged to have occurred between 2000 and 2004 at the unlicensed residential daycare she ran with her husband. Ronald Surette, 64, was facing the same five charges, but died shortly after the charges were laid. He had terminal cancer.
The daycare is no longer operating.
Surette was also represented by Michel DesNeiges.