SQ officer guilty of dangerous driving causing death of five-year-old
Published Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:24AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 19, 2018 7:39PM EDT
A Sureté du Quebec officer has been found guilty 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.
Justice Eric Simard said Ouellet should have known he was driving dangerously, since the crash happened during the morning rush hour and took place near a daycare.
Simard also rejected the officer’s defence that he was within his rights to break the speed limit.
“Ouellet voluntarily placed himself in a situation where he knew it would be impossible to react adequately to something that could happen in a residential neighbourhood at 8 a.m. on a weekday,” Simard said in his statement, adding “Absolutely nothing justified taking such risks.”
After evaluating the case the Crown initially declined to lay charges, saying that Mike Belance had made a risky manoeuvre when he turned left.
It was only after the public learned that Ouellet was driving more than double the speed limit that Quebec's Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée ordered a new investigation, which recommended charges against Ouellet.
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.
Following the verdict the Belance-Thorne family did not speak to media, but Crown prosecutor Genevieve Langlois said they were satisfied with the result.
"They accepted well the verdict that was pronounced today. They will take time to evaluate if they want to speak to the judge at the next step," which will be when sentencing arguments and victim impact statements are heard in court.
Those arguments are scheduled to be made on Sept. 27. Ouellet faces a maximum of 14 years in prison, but there's no mandatory minimum.
Ouellet's lawyer Nadine Touma already announced she will appeal the verdict.