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Child porn charges against Alan Raymond Charbonneau stayed due to delay

02/13/2015 05:00 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
A judicial delay of more than 4½ years has resulted in a B.C. provincial court judge staying child pornography charges against a Quesnel man.

Alan Raymond Charbonneau, 61, was arrested in March 2009 as part of Project Salvo, a Canada-wide investigation resulting in charges against dozens of men for crimes ranging from sexual assault to the distribution of child pornography.

But according to a decision written last month, Judge Michael Bracknell found RCMP operational policy combined with endless court rescheduling resulted in a 54-month delay in bringing the Charbonneau's case to a conclusion.

"My life has been in limbo for nearly five years as this case dragged on and dominated my life to the virtual exclusion of any pleasures. None of these delays have been my personal fault," Charbonneau wrote in an affidavit.

"I feel I am the only person making any effort to get this matter dealt with but I feel I have been deemed of 'no consequence' by the system and lost in the bureaucracy."

Project Salvo

At the time of Charbonneau's arrest in 2009, Project Salvo was heralded as Canada's largest co-ordinated internet child-pornography investigation.

The RCMP worked with more than 30 police agencies in every province, arresting 57 men in a series of raids.

In the years that followed, one of the men, Quebec pedophile Richard Reber, was sentenced to 10 years after the initial investigation led police to evidence of him sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl and videotaping the crime.

Charbonneau's computer was seized from his home on March 23, 2009. At the time, police found thumbnail images consistent with child pornography, but no videos or pictures.

But while they had Charbonneau's computer in their possession for more than a year, RCMP didn't analyze the contents until they learned Charbonneau planned to plead not guilty. 

"Due to the sheer volume of child pornography investigations and the time required to complete a detailed analysis of a computer, RCMP policy directs that a detailed analysis not be done until the trial date has been set," Bracknell wrote.

"Although [the Integrated Child Exploitation unit] had nine investigators there were not unlimited resources and bottlenecks sometimes occurred because some cases have millions of images and thousands of videos to analyze."

According to Bracknell's ruling, police analyzed Charbonneau's computer in 2010 and determined there were 363 images and 52 videos of various lengths of child pornography.

Personal distress

Charbonneau has no criminal record and was working for Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the time of his arrest. He claimed he was forced to take early retirement after the charges were publicized.

The trial began in April 2012, but was delayed by a series of legal challenges and a crowded calendar that made finding extra court dates a challenge.

Bracknell noted that Quesnel's local media carried every twist and turn in the case.

"The stress of the case being drawn out has caused him high blood pressure, feelings of depression, hopelessness and anxiety and anticipation of an old age of disgrace and poverty," Bracknell wrote.

According to an annual report last December, B.C.'s provincial courts are still working with a reduced number of judges; more than 50 per cent of cases were pending from six to 10 months, while more than 14 per cent were pending more than 18 months. 

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