New Brunswick

Former priest Yvon Arsenault acquitted on 2 sexual assault charges

Former priest Yvon Arsenault has been found not guilty of indecent assault and gross indecency for incidents that were alleged to have happened in Shediac more than 40 years ago​.

Arsenault already serving a 4-year sentence after admitting to touching 9 boys in the 1970s

Yvon Arsenault, in a picture from February 2017, before he was incarcerated for molesting nine boys between 1971 and 1980 while serving as a Catholic priest. (CBC)

Former priest Yvon Arsenault has been found not guilty of indecent assault and gross indecency for incidents that were alleged to have happened in Shediac more than 40 years ago​.

On Friday morning, Judge Jean-Paul Ouellette said the testimony during the trial in Moncton raised a reasonable doubt, so he had to find Arsenault not guilty.

The man who accused Arsenault of the assaults said he was 10 to 12 years old when the abuse occurred between 1970 and 1972 at a youth club. ​

"The judicial system worked the way it's supposed to with that decision today," said Alison Menard, Arsenault's lawyer.

"The judge heard all of the evidence and he made a decision based on the evidence."

Arsenault is satisfied and happy "the whole thing is over," Menard said. 

"Anybody who has to function with those kinds of accusations against them without a decision being made, feels very anxious."

Alison Menard, Yvon Arsenault's defence lawyer at the courthouse in Moncton on Friday morning. (Photo: CBC)

The Crown did not wish to comment after the verdict.

Arsenault's trial on the charges took place in August. 

He has already been convicted of sex crimes and is serving time in prison. In 2017, he was sentenced to four years after he admitted touching nine young boys in the 1970s.

The nine victims ranged in age from nine to 17 when the abuse occurred between 1971 and 1980 in Shediac and Collette, in Northumberland County.

Arsenault denied the latest allegations against him, made by a man who is now 60 and who has also filed a civil suit against the Catholic Church.

Arsenault testified during the trial that he would admit to the latest allegations, as he did to the earlier ones, but they aren't true. 

Just 'pranks'

He said he spent little time with children when he was an assistant priest at the Saint-Joseph Parish in Shediac and worked mostly with a committee and some teenagers. He described his interactions with children as pranks, "not assault."

In the Court of Queen's Bench on Friday, Ouellette said a former teacher who testified was credible and corroborated Arsenault's testimony. Neither she nor Arsenault remembered the alleged victim. 

The judge said there were contradictions in the accuser's testimony, and these, along with some memory gaps and the civil suit, raised concerns about credibility. 

After the verdict, churchgoer Norma Melanson, a supporter of Arsenault, said she followed the court process from the beginning so "justice could be had." 

"I'm happy with the results," she said.

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