POLITICS

Earlier crimes may be included as evidence in priest abuse case

03/17/2014 12:58 EDT | Updated 05/17/2014 05:59 EDT
IQALUIT, Nunavut - A northern judge is deciding whether to consider the previous convictions of a former priest accused of sexually abusing Inuit children.

Eric Dejaeger, a former Oblate priest, is facing 68 counts of abuse against dozens of children from his time as a missionary in Igloolik, Nunavut, between 1978 and 1982. The allegations range from fondling to the sodomy of a little girl duct-taped to the priest's bed.

Dejaeger pleaded guilty to another eight counts as his trial began last November.

On the witness stand Dejaeger testified that the most recent offences he admitted to "just happened." He suggested that the nature of the offences shows that he's not a violent man.

Crown prosecutor Doug Curliss argued Monday that since Dejaeger brought the question of his character into court, that gives the prosecution the right to introduce information from Dejaeger's previous convictions.

"The details of his previous convictions put his character in issue," Curliss said.

Dejaeger was sentenced to five years in jail in 1989 for 10 sexual assaults he committed in Baker Lake, Nunavut, after leaving Igloolik.

Defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt argued that just because his client discussed charges he pleaded guilty to at the start of this trial, that isn't enough reason to include information from his previous convictions.

"This is coming through a side window," said Kempt. "I would suggest the Crown is reaching on this."

Justice Robert Kilpatrick said he would rule on the evidence Tuesday.

The trial is expected to wrap up by Friday.

Kilpatrick hasn't said when he might deliver a verdict. He has more than 1,500 pages of transcripts to review from the trial.