MONTREAL — A Montreal police officer who was charged with sexual assault following an independent investigation by the province's police watchdog was acquitted Wednesday by a Quebec court judge.
Roger Fréchette was facing one count of sexual assault against a woman from Ontario who was visiting Montreal in February 2019 and whose identity is protected by a publication ban.
Fréchette was the first police officer to be charged following an independent investigation by Quebec's police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes.
Judge Lori Renée Weitzman ruled that Frechette's version of events was "totally unbelievable," but she said she could not say from the woman's version — which included some contradictions and lack of clear memories — what had happened.
The woman had come to Montreal with her then-boyfriend for a Valentine's Day weekend when they were arrested downtown after they started arguing on the street following a night of drinking. Both were detained.
That's where Fréchette, a detention officer, encountered the woman.
The woman, who had spent that night in police custody, testified that after she was released the following morning, Frechette, who had completed his work shift, insisted on taking her back to her hotel. She said the officer followed her into her room and allegedly groped her, licked her neck, grabbed her private parts and forced her hand on his crotch.
She also told the court she suffered post-traumatic stress previous to her 2019 arrest in Montreal and said she didn't remember specific conversations with Fréchette or the sequence of events in the hotel room.
Fréchette said in his defence that he was just trying to help the woman — whom he said he did not know — by bringing her back to her hotel, adding that he was the one who was groped. The 34-year veteran police officer, who had spent a decade supervising the cells at a downtown Montreal detention centre, told the trial it was the first time he had escorted a detainee home after his shift.
Weitzman said in her 18-page ruling "there is no doubt" the woman had a bad experience on Feb. 18, 2019, "and the court understands her frustration to not be able to rely on her memory of the events."
"However, her version of the facts is not sufficiently reliable to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Fréchette."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2021.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press