A Sureté du Quebec officer has been sentenced to eight months in jail after being convicted of dangerous driving causing the death of a five-year-old boy.

On Feb. 13, 2014, Patrick Ouellet was speeding at 134 km/h on a residential street in Longueuil in an unmarked police car during an undercover operation when he smashed into a car making a left-hand turn on a green light.

Five-year-old Nicholas Thorne-Belance was a passenger in the back seat of the car that was hit, and he died in hospital several days later.

Following many delays, including an initial refusal by the Crown to lay charges, Ouellet stood trial earlier this year and was convicted of dangerous driving causing death.

In his decision, Justice Eric Simard said Ouellet: “knowingly placed himself in a situation where it was impossible to react adequately to what could happen in a residential neighbourhood at eight in the morning on a weekday when dozens, if not hundreds of people head to school, daycare, or work.”

Last month the Crown and Ouellet's defence lawyer Nadine Touma submitted a joint recommendation that Ouellet serve eight months behind bars, much less than the maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Prosecutor Genevieve Langlois said she was satisfied with the sentence.

“Justice Simard mentioned that the incarceration sends a clear message to police community regarding the criminal behaviour of police officers in the cars in their duty,” she said.

Knowing he would be going into custody, Ouellet was prepared with his personal effects and accompanied by friends and family as he said goodbye.

Members of the Thorne-Belance family were also in the courtroom to observe Ouellet being taken into detention, but walked away from reporters afterwards saying they were not yet ready to talk.

When Ouellet is released from custody, he will not be allowed to drive for one year.


2014 crash while conducting surveillance

On the day of the crash Ouellet was part of a police operation tailing Robert Parent, a former director of the Liberal Party of Quebec.

The Crown initially said that it would not lay charges, blaming in part Mike Belance, saying he made a risky manoeuvre when he turned left on a green light despite oncoming traffic.

However when the public learned that Ouellet was travelling more than double the 50 km/h speed limit in a residential zone, and did not have his lights flashing or siren blaring, then-justice minister Stephanie Vallée ordered a new investigation.

Plans to appeal

Ouellet's lawyer is appealing the verdict.

She said that Ouellet's conviction has already prompted changes in how police departments operate.

"It was a big impact on police officers. And the Sureté du Quebec has been looking into the policies they have so that they can improve the surveillance, of course, to reduce all the risks possible for safety," said Touma.