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Friday, September 17, 1999Prosecutor, policeman fined for councillor's wrongful arrest
$366,800 plus interest
MONTREAL - Montreal police and prosecutors have to pay $366,800 plus interest to a former councillor for wrongfully arresting him on sexual-assault charges.
In awarding the damages to Alain Andre and his wife, Superior Court Justice Luc Lefebvre sharply criticized a police investigator and a Crown prosecutor for basing their case solely on the statements of Mr. Andre's adopted daughter, who was described as having psychological problems.
"The nightmare has finally ended," said Mr. Andre, 59, a former mayoral candidate. "The reason I fought my case is that you can't accuse someone without a minimum of proof."
Mr. Andre was opposition leader at city hall in 1994 when his adopted 25-year-old daughter told police he had beaten and raped her when she was a child.
He was arrested at home and held in a jail cell until he was released on bail the same day. The charges were dropped by prosecutors before the preliminary inquiry stage, after Mr. Andre's lawyers gave prosecutors 40 affidavits from people who refuted his daughter's accusations.
Judge Lefebvre awarded Mr. Andre and his wife, Lorraine Drouin, $366,800. With interest, the final figure will be close to $500,000.
Lawyers involved in the case said the decision could have far-reaching consequences on sexual-assault cases, because Judge Lefebvre ruled that police need more than just an alleged victim's version of events.
Since sexual-assault cases often come down to the alleged victim's words against the person he or she is accusing, that need for extra proof could make police reluctant to lay charges for fear of lawsuits, the lawyers said -- especially in cases where the assault is alleged to have taken place years before.
Judge Lefebvre ruled that investigator Raoul Lacombe of Montreal police didn't seek corroborating proof, even though he was urged to do so by his boss.
"The court is of the opinion that Lacombe didn't undertake a serious investigation before the arrest," the judge wrote.
The judge faults the police investigator for not talking to schoolmates, relatives, neighbours, doctors, nurses and psychologists who treated the daughter.
And the judge also criticizes the prosecutor in the case, Ghislaine Larrivee.
"The court is of the opinion that the prosecutor, Mme. Larrivee, acted recklessly in basing her case only on [the woman's] statements."
The judge said the prosecutor destroyed the life of a man on so little proof.
The judge mentions that Mr. Andre had to leave his job during the criminal case.
The judgment also blames Mr. Andre's adopted daughter. She never showed up for the civil trial last winter, and she has not been heard from for years.
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