Judge tosses last case Project Truth

By HOLLY LAKE, Ottawa Sun

In the end, too much time had passed. That was the reason given yesterday for tossing out the last charges in Cornwall's long-running Project Truth sex scandal.

"The length of delay is in excess of six years," Justice Terence Platana told Jacques Leduc. "I clearly understand this is not an appropriate time period."

CHARGED IN 1998

Leduc -- the 54-year-old former legal counsel for the Archdiocese of Alexandria-Cornwall -- was charged in June 1998 with eight counts of sexual exploitation involving three boys after he was implicated by the OPP's probe into sex allegations against prominent Cornwall-area figures since the 1950s.

Project Truth resulted in 114 charges against 15 high profile men, including three Catholic priests, a doctor and a lawyer. Only one was ever convicted of sexual offences.

Leduc's case was stayed in March 2001 after a Superior Court judge ruled the Crown deliberately withheld evidence. That was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2003 and endorsed earlier this year by the Supreme Court of Canada.

A new trial had been set to begin Oct. 4, but on that day the defence brought forth a motion to stay the charges.

In his ruling, Platana blamed the delays on the Crown in disclosing evidence. He specifically referred to former Cornwall Police Const. Perry Dunlop's delay in sharing all the information collected from alleged victims.

Outside the courthouse, Leduc said the past six years have been trying for his family and friends.

"There is some resolution today," said Leduc. He said he understands the impact being charged has on the wrongly accused. "I will live with that for the rest of my life."

He's not alone.

"Where's the justice? The victims are still suffering, they will be suffering the rest of their lives," said the father of one alleged victim.

Former Tory MPP Garry Guzzo, who pushed for an inquest for years, said the stay didn't happen by accident.

"There's been no desire on the part of any government to see justice done here," he said. "There was no rush to ensure these matters got to trial. No rush at all."

PROTECT 'HIGHER-UPS'

He said a cloud remains over the community and the alleged victims and residents deserve an inquiry to lift it.

"The only reason you wouldn't (have one) would be to protect the higher-ups from the embarrassment."

Leduc declined to comment on whether there should be a public inquiry, while Paul Scott, spokesman for Citizens for Renewal, said there's no reason one should not go ahead. He noted Premier Dalton McGuinty and Attorney General Michael Bryant have said it could only happen once pending criminal cases were settled.

"It's a terrible, terrible travesty of justice that's gone on here,"Scott said. "There's always going to be lingering doubts. ...Justice does not seem to be done here at all."