Quebec court chief judge seeks access to sealed documents in secret trial case

The Quebec Superior Court is seen Wednesday, March 27, 2019, . Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The chief judge of Quebec court has filed a motion with the Court of Appeal to get information under seal regarding a so-called secret trial held in the province about which even she has been kept in the dark.

In a court application filed Monday, a lawyer representing Judge Lucie Rondeau said the judge has been unable to learn whether the case was heard at the provincial court level.

Read more: Quebec media pen letter denouncing criminal trial held in secret, kept off court docket

The trial’s existence only became public because the police informant accused in the case appealed his or her conviction, and the appeals court issued a heavily redacted ruling at the end of February critical of the lower court proceedings.

“The intervener, after having read the redacted version of the judgment, carried out without success all the possible checks with the various judges who had assumed management functions within the court during the period likely to be covered by the situation,” Rondeau’s application said.

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“If the Quebec court is the court of first instance, the intervener must obtain the information  allowing them to exercise the responsibilities arising from their functions.”

Rondeau’s application argues it is in the public’s interest that she be able to get the information. She said she would abide by any orders protecting the identity of the informant or other details in the case.

Read more: Quebec justice minister seeks answers on criminal trial that occurred with ‘no trace’

The initial case had no official docket number. The nature of the alleged crime and the jurisdiction where it occurred were kept secret, as was the police force involved. The names of the lawyers and judge who participated in the case were also not disclosed.

The informant was convicted of participating in a crime that he or she had initially revealed to police. The informant claimed he or she was a victim of an abuse of process, but the lower court judge disagreed.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal panel, however, sided with the informant and stayed the conviction and the legal proceedings, noting in its ruling the initial trial was “contrary to the fundamental principles that govern our justice system.”

Read more: Quebec justice minister vows no more shadow trials as feds express concern

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Last week, Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said the Quebec Crown was not involved in the case and that senior leadership among the Quebec court and Quebec Superior Court agreed cases should not take place under such secrecy.

Jolin-Barrette asked prosecutors to file a motion with the Court of Appeal to request that information in the case be made public, such as the identity of the judge and lawyers involved and the orders delivered.

As well, federal prosecutors last week issued a statement that didn’t explicitly state they took part in the case. Instead, they said the federal prosecution service “does not initiate prosecutions in secret and does not conduct secret trials, even in matters involving an informer.”

“Certain proceedings within a trial are required, based on applicable legal rules, to be confidential, including those that require informer privilege to be safeguarded.”

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