Internal review of what went wrong in SharQc trial lays no specific blame

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An internal administrative review by Quebec’s prosecutors bureau into how a murder trial involving members of the Hells Angels was aborted because the prosecution took too long to turn over evidence to defence lawyers lays no blame on any specific attorney. 

Instead, Annick Murphy, the head of the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP), attributes what happened to a “chain of events” involving different organizations involved in the case

On Oct. 9, 2015, Superior Court Justice James Brunton placed a stay of proceedings on murder and conspiracy charges filed against five men — Claude Berger, Yvon Tanguay, François Vachon, Sylvain Vachon and Michel Vallières. All five were alleged to be members of the biker gang’s Sherbrooke chapter between 1994 and 2002, when the Hells Angels were involved in a war with other criminal organizations.

Brunton made the decision after learning that it took four years for the prosecution to turn over evidence related to one of the seven first-degree murder charges in the case — the death of Sylvain Reed, a man who was killed on March 12, 1997, in the Eastern Townships. The evidence revealed police in Ontario had a completely different version of what happened to Reed compared to a statement made by Sylvain Boulanger, a former Hells Angel who became an informant and was the key witness in Operation SharQc. 

In his decision, Brunton criticized the prosecution for adopting “a desire to win at all costs (throughout the trial) to the detriment to the fundamental principles that form the foundation of our penal justice system.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Murphy said: “(The responsibility) does not rest on one person in particular.”

She said the blame could be spread between the prosecution and police, but that the administrative review she ordered a week after Brunton’s decision “leaves us with no reason to doubt (they acted) in good faith.” 

The administrative review was done by Jean Lortie, a former prosecutor.

File photo of a Hells Angel. Bill Keay / Vancouver Sun

“(The review) permits us to conclude that no prosecutor, among all of those involved in the case sought to hide, neither from the defence, nor from the court, the existence of evidence that was in the possession of the state,” Lortie wrote in his 69-page report. He also noted the prosecution team lacked the resources required to corroborate all of Boulanger’s allegations. 

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