Multiplication of long delays in investigations: “We are going to hit a wall” – UPAC

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Multiplication of long delays in investigations: “ We are going to hit a wall” - UPAC

In an interview with Investigation, the Commissioner of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit maintains that the fight against corruption is compromised if his investigations continue to get bogged down in endless petitions before the courts.

UPAC commissioner, Frédérick Gaudreau, grants an interview to Marie-Maude Denis about the long delays in the Quebec justice system.

Commissioner Frédérick Gaudreau regrets that, in a ten large-scale investigations, it took 1000 days on average before the investigators could access the evidence seized during searches, in particular because the professional secrecy of lawyers was asserted.

Frédérick Gaudreau absolutely does not dispute the professional secrecy of lawyers, a foundation of our judicial system.

But it is in the application of this principle that the investigations of the UPAC are weighted. According to Commissioner Gaudreau, this contributes to the general dysfunction of Quebec courts, denounced by several of its actors in recent weeks.

At some point, we have to be realize, we are going to hit a wall, warns Frédérick Gaudreau, in a rare interview on the show Enquête.

Commissioner Frédérick Gaudreau's cry from the heart

The full interview with Commissioner Gaudreau is broadcast on Enquête Thursday at 9 p.m. on ICI Télé. It is also available as a catch-up on ICI

The UPAC has made the exercise of compiling the delays between the day of the searches and the moment when the courts decide which documents can be consulted by the investigators, when the professional secrecy of lawyers is invoked.

This process took an average of 1,000 days to resolve 14 separate motions, filed in 8 UPAC investigations. Ultimately, we cannot work on the files in which we have made a search, deplores Frédérick Gaudreau.

This is the consequence of a Supreme Court decision that gives rise to Lavallée-type motions, as they are called in the jargon of the courts. This is the name of a 2002 decision by the highest court in the land concerning the protection of attorney-client privilege. As soon as this process begins, police investigations are often paralyzed for years, the courts are cluttered with the multiple stages of these requests and significant resources are mobilized.

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What has changed everything since this 2002 decision, according to Frédérick Gaudreau, is the current volume of documents seized on computer media during searches. In 2002, it is a document in a file. Today, a terabyte of data is no longer rare. That's 6.5 million paper documents, or 1,300 binders.

So many files that must be finely filtered by a friend of the court, a neutral lawyer, who must decide what is covered by secrecy or not. Moreover, the friends of the court, it does not run the streets, explains Frédérick Gaudreau, who points out that there are sometimes difficulties in finding lawyers who want to execute this mandate.

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The consequences of these long delays are undermining confidence in UPAC, according to Commissioner Gaudreau: Today, it takes three years to even have access to the documents that we have searched, how do you you that a person is incited to make a denunciation?

Frédérick Gaudreau admits that UPAC also made mistakes and that all these delays are not entirely attributable to the suspects in the investigations. We (sometimes) left with a lot of information that was not necessary for our investigation. He attributes this problem to a lack of knowledge of computer media.

Frédérick Gaudreau, commissaire UPAC

The stalemate in the UPAC investigations can also be explained by the combined effect of the Jordan decision and by the congestion of the courts. The prosecution tries to anticipate all the requests that the defense could present before filing charges, in order to limit the risks of a stay of proceedings for unreasonable delays.

Of course there is a fundamental question in this, namely: are there two justices? A justice for the normal people and a justice for the rich. I will not comment on that. On the other hand, it is a reality, indeed, when you have the means and you have the time, you can try a lot of recourse to the court. We have seen this in certain files.

Is the professional secrecy of lawyers abused to torpedo the investigations of the UPAC, a power reserved to those who can afford it? The commissioner chooses his words carefully.

My impression is that it can sometimes leave a little cynical side on my part, on the part of my teammates who do the investigations by saying to themselves: “Okay, once again, we will raise the privilege. " Then when it does, it'll break the momentum of the investigation. In the same breath, he nuances. Nevertheless, we have to deal with this reality. This is our justice system in Canada.

Frédérick Gaudreau maintains that all police forces are grappling with similar issues, particularly when it comes to complex investigations of organized crime and financial crimes. It challenges both the elected officials of Quebec and Ottawa to take action.

We must give a boost to our methods, to the management of these requests before the courts, even before it goes to court. We must sit down with the legislators and be listened to, he pleads.

  • Create an independent organization responsible for computer searches like the Laboratory of forensic science and forensic medicine. To avoid any perception of bias in the hardware seizure process.
  • Adopt a standard protocol for solicitor-client privilege requests. Rather than redoing the debate in each case.
  • Reform the sections of the Criminal Code of Canada that deal with corruption. Adopted in 1892, these are archaic and no longer in tune with the current reality of corruption crimes, believes the commissioner.
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