Dunlop's duty

A judge once said that former police constable Perry Dunlop set himself up as "judge, jury and executioner" of an alleged pedophile ring in Cornwall, Ont. That ring, it turned out, never existed, according to an exhaustive investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, and Cornwall became notorious for being the site of a Salem-like hysteria over child sex abuse. This week, Mr. Dunlop had a chance to tell his side of the story at a judicial inquiry into how the justice system handled the child-abuse allegations. Instead, he refused to answer questions. "I am the scapegoat," he told Ontario Court Judge Normand Glaude. "This has been a cover-up since 1993 and it continues to be a cover-up to this day."

In his refusal, Mr. Dunlop failed in his duty to the public. His allegations, which turned out to be wildly excessive, tore Cornwall apart. He accused members of the local police force for which he worked, the Roman Catholic Church and the Crown Attorney's office of conspiring to cover up sexual abuse. His allegations prompted the OPP investigation. After interviewing several hundred people, the OPP said it found no conspiracy and no pedophile ring; but it did lay 115 charges against 14 men, including a doctor, a lawyer and three priests. Only one man was convicted.

It may be that Mr. Dunlop is sincere in his belief that abuse was covered up, in spite of the extensive investigation and the large number of charges and courtroom proceedings. It may also be that he does not wish his own role to be probed any further. In any event, the scene at the inquiry was bizarre: His supporters cheered his entrance, and when he took the stand his wife Helen rose, prompting Judge Glaude to ask if she needed a seat; she explained she was standing to "honour and support" her husband. Mr. Dunlop said he is willing to go to jail on contempt of court charges if the judge so decides. (Judge Glaude has put off the issue for a couple of days, giving Mr. Dunlop time to change his mind.) In his own mind, and the mind of his wife and others, it appears he is a kind of martyr, and therefore excused of any obligation to the inquiry.

Of sexual-abuse cover-ups there have been no shortage in Canada, but this country also needs to protect against hysteria and wrongful allegations that destroy lives. At some point, Mr. Dunlop allowed his zeal to overtake his judgment. He owes it Cornwall to put himself at the inquiry's service.