Publisher cleared of child pornography charges suing Quebec prosecutors

A jury box is shown in a courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. An Edmonton criminal law firm says COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta's courthouses have led to an untenable situation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

A Quebec publisher acquitted of child pornography charges last year has filed a lawsuit against the province’s prosecution service.

In a statement of claim filed in Quebec Superior Court in September, lawyers for Editions ADA argue that the charges never should have been laid.

While the filing acknowledges that the legal liability of Crown prosecutors is limited, it argues that the actions of the prosecutors in the original case show that they had illegitimate motives or goals and did not have reasonable and probable cause to bring charges.

Editions ADA and author Yvan Godbout were acquitted of child pornography charges in September 2020. The charges stemmed from a horror novel written by Godbout, “Hansel et Gretel,” which included scenes of child sexual abuse.

Prosecutors argued those depictions of sexual abuse were harmful.

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However, Frederic Laflamme and Guillaume Laberge, the lawyers for ADA, argue that allegation was based on a single report from a police criminologist who wrote that the book could lead some people to believe the actions depicted were acceptable and could increase the risk that they would commit similar acts of abuse.

The report never questioned whether the book was in fact child pornography, according to the statement of claim.

“The novel `Hansel et Gretel’ is in no way a glorification of sexual violence or pedophilia. It is in fact the opposite,” the statement of claim reads. “The novel `Hansel et Gretel’ never has the objective of creating desire or arousal in the reader, but rather, to elicit fear, terror and disgust.”

The suit argues that the charges were brought “on the basis of deficient and blatantly incomplete expert evidence,” and that there was no victim and no material evidence other than the novel itself.

It accuses prosecutors of developing “tunnel vision” focused on certain passages in the novel and acting in bad faith with a “gross disregard” for the interests of justice.

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The statement of claim contains allegations that have not been proven in court. The Quebec prosecution service did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

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Editions ADA; Francois Doucet, the publishing company’s president and founder; his wife, Nancy Coulombe, who is an administrator at the company; and their son, Nycolas Doucet, the company’s chief executive are all parties to the suit.

The suit claims that ADA saw sales decline as a result of the prosecution and that it lost contracts with other publishers, agents and retailers. It seeks $3.75 million in specific, moral and punitive damages for ADA as well as $175,000 in damages for Francois Doucet, $30,000 for Coulombe and $150,000 for Nycolas Doucet.

It argues that Francois Doucet suffered reputational damage, lost the majority of his friends and felt ostracized due to the serious nature of the allegations. His son, who was personally arrested, was also ostracized and suffered personal harm from the charges, the suit claims.

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