NEWS

Quebec Police Officer Charged In Crash That Killed Five-Year-Old Boy

05/26/2015 02:20 EDT | Updated 05/26/2016 05:59 EDT
Courtoisie
MONTREAL - A Quebec provincial police officer is facing a charge of dangerous driving causing the death of a five-year-old boy while he was on duty.

The province's director of criminal and penal prosecutions announced Tuesday it has charged Patrick Ouellet after a recommendation by an independent committeee.

In February 2014, Nicholas Thorne-Belance was a passenger in his father's car when they were struck by a police cruiser going at 120 km/h in a 50 km/h zone in Saint-Hubert, a borough of Longueuil, just south of Montreal.

He died a few days later.

Last November, the Crown indicated there would be no charge against Ouellet, triggering a strong backlash in the community and prompting Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee to set up the committee.

Prosecutors said no charges would be laid and that the boy's father made a "risky manoeuvre" by turning left on a green light as opposed to a flashing green light that would have given him priority.

Just days later, the Crown reviewed the incident after a witness came forward and said she was shocked to see the father being blamed because, according to her, the officer was clearly at fault. Vallee took that opportunity to convene the independent body to look into the case.

The incident occurred about 8 a.m. on a weekday morning while the victim and a sibling were being driven to school.

Ouellet was on duty but was not answering an emergency call.

His vehicle was the middle one of three unmarked cruisers that were tailing another car in a corruption-related surveillance operation.

Montreal La Presse, quoting police documents, reported last year they were following Robert Parent, who was director of the Quebec Liberal party between 2003 and 2008.

Parti Quebecois justice critic Alexandre Cloutier said the laying of criminal charges was due.

"The (Crown) behaved as if it was a court, that was a mistake that has now been corrected with the charge being filed," Cloutier said.

He added the government must now oblige the prosecutor's office to spell out why charges aren't laid when police are involved in a death.

"This cannot happen again in Quebec," Cloutier said. "From now on ... they must at least be compelled to explain their decisions."

Vallee said the prosecutor's office has her full confidence, but she wouldn't comment further on the issue Tuesday.

Ouellet has been suspended with pay, as per the provincial police collective agreement.

He is scheduled to appear in court in Longueuil on June 26.

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