Provincial police launch internal probe after sex assault charges stayed against Michel Arsenault

·2 min read
Sûreté du Québec wants to know what went wrong with the investigation against a former gymnastic coach accused of sexual assault.
Sûreté du Québec wants to know what went wrong with the investigation against a former gymnastic coach accused of sexual assault.

(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Quebec provincial police have launched an administrative probe into the botched investigation that led to a stay of proceedings against former gymnastics trainer Michel Arsenault.

Thursday morning, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) decided to put an end to the criminal proceedings brought against Arsenault.

Late Friday, the SQ issued a news release saying it "is greatly concerned by this situation" and that an administrative investigation will be carried out.

"Being aware of the seriousness of the acts committed and the impact on the lives of the victims, it will ensure that all the procedures surrounding the conduct of this investigation will be the subject of an exhaustive analysis," the release said.

Arsenault had been facing multiple counts of sexual assault and assault in connection with five former gymnasts.

Arsenault requested a stay of proceedings last year, accusing investigators of not properly disclosing evidence and of "contaminating" witnesses. The request was granted by a Superior Court judge.

The court agreed with the argument put forward by Arsenault's lawyer, namely that the SQ was negligent.

"By acting as they did, the police carried out a botched investigation, collecting only the evidence that was consistent with their theory of events and thus deliberately failing to keep all the evidence obtained," the ruling says.

Arsenault, 59, was arrested in Edmonton in 2018, and was charged with two counts of sexual assault and three counts of assault, in relation to five alleged victims — all ex-gymnasts who he coached in Montreal between 1983 and 1993.

Two of them were minors at the time of the alleged sexual assaults.

This decision is not at all related to the victim's testimony, nor their credibility, said DPCP spokesperson Audrey Roy-Cloutier on Thursday.

And now as the SQ takes a hard look at itself and what went wrong, the release says there will be no further comment "in order to respect the integrity of this process which is starting today".