New Brunswick

Former priest will learn verdict on assault charges in September

Former priest Yvon Arsenault will learn Sept. 21 whether he's guilty of indecent assault and gross indecency for incidents that allegedly happened more than 40 years ago in Shediac.

Judge will deliver verdict in Moncton on Sept. 21 on charges of indecent assault and gross indecency

Yvon Arsenault, in a picture from February 2017, before he was incarcerated for molesting nine boys in the the 1970s while a priest. (CBC)

Former priest Yvon Arsenault will learn Sept. 21 whether he's guilty of indecent assault and gross indecency for incidents that allegedly happened more than 40 years ago in Shediac.

As defence lawyer Allison Menard presented her closing arguments, Arsenault listened attentively from the prisoner's box.

He is already serving a four-year sentence after he admitted to touching nine young boys in the 1970s.

But he has denied the current charges against him. The alleged victim said he was 10 to 12 years old when the abuse occurred between 1970 and 1972. 

In her closing arguments to the Court of Queen's Bench, Menard urged the judge to believe Arsenault. 

"His testimony was spontaneous, reasoned and reasonable … he didn't avoid difficult questions."

She argued the victim, who was not in court Friday, had inconsistencies in his timeline for when the abuse happened and how old he was.

She said the victim was 10 to 12 years old from 1968 to 1970 but he testified the abuse happened between 1970 and 1972. 

Sowed doubt

Menard also pointed to inconsistencies in small details, such as the name of the boys club where the alleged abuse happened.

"That sows doubt about the plaintiff's testimony," she said. "There are complete contradictions."

Defence lawyer Alison Menard argued her client is not guilty of the alleged charges against him. (CBC)

Menard said the victim is one of several people involved in a civil lawsuit against the church.

"Is his testimony reliable? That's the task of the court."

Menard said Arsenault had no way of defending himself except to say he didn't do it. 

"He can't prove 40 years later he was somewhere else during a certain moment."

Crown prosecutor Sylvie Godin-Blanchard argued the victim was reliable and credible and was 100 per cent sure it was Arsenault who committed the assaults on him. 

"This is not an incident he would have made up." 

Stayed silent

Godin-Blanchard said the victim has been affected by the alleged assaults his whole life.

He was told by Arsenault to keep silent and that what he was doing to him was normal, Godin-Blanchard said.

"His whole life he thought he was alone and he decided to keep silent."

With regard to the victim's testimony, Godin-Blanchard said he expressed himself with simplicity. At no point did he hesitate to answer.

"At no point did he try to exaggerate facts surrounding the allegations," she said. "He's testifying as an adult, but he has the perception of a 12-year-old child. The court has to take that into consideration. 

"His testimony was unwavering, even though he talked about things he wasn't comfortable with."

Godin-Blanchard argued there were little details in the victim's testimony that he couldn't have made up and used the example of remembering pants with an elastic band that the priest allegedly pulled down. 

Self-serving testimony

The prosecutor told the court all the incidents had an impact on the victim. He failed his studies and thought about suicide.

Arsenault's argument that he would have pleaded guilty had he committed the acts was weak and his testimony  self-serving. 

"When I interviewed Yvon Arsenault, it was like pulling teeth."

Godin-Blanchard told the court she believes she proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the court should find Arsenault guilty.

"The victim didn't try to embellish anything. He told it as he remembered. He testified to the best of his knowledge and he deserves justice like all the others."

The judge will deliver his verdict at 9 a.m. Sept. 21. 

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy