Ex-cop who refuses to testify can still avoid jail

 

Feb 18, 2008 07:57 PM


THE CANADIAN PRESS

Perry Dunlop's ongoing refusal to testify at an inquiry probing allegations of systemic sexual abuse will land him in a Toronto court Wednesday, where commission lawyers seeking a lengthy jail term for the former police officer's defiance will also dangle a get-out-of-jail-free card allowing him to testify and go home.

Dunlop's off-hours investigation of an alleged pedophile ring in which clergy, politicians and business leaders in Cornwall, Ont., were accused of bizarre sexual rituals with young boys prompted a police probe dubbed Project Truth.

The investigation culminated in just one conviction and failed to turn up any evidence of a sex ring. A public inquiry into the systemic response to those long-standing allegations ensued.

Dunlop, whose information "goes to the very heart" of the inquiry, has flatly refused most recently through the media to give his evidence, saying he's lost faith in the justice system.

After months of the drama playing out in non-appearances before the commission, a finding of contempt and a judicial order compelling his testimony, the 43-year old was arrested Sunday at his home in Duncan, B.C., as his wife, three daughters and some 75 supporters voiced their support of his boycott.

On Wednesday, he will appear before a Divisional Court judge in Toronto to answer to his actions.

Documents filed with the court make it clear the commission wants an example made of Dunlop, but they're also offering up the option of endorsing his release if only he agrees to testify.

"Mr. Dunlop has thumbed his nose at both the court and the commission. He has not merely disobeyed the order, but has done so in an open, continuous and flagrant manner," reads the commission's factum.

"Mr. Dunlop's blatant disregard for the work of the inquiry and refusal to participate diminishes public confidence in the work of the commission and should be punished accordingly."

The commission wants the judge to find Dunlop in criminal contempt for refusing the December court order to testify, and points out such a conviction can carry a jail term of "15 days to 15 months."

Dunlop can "purge his contempt" by answering all questions put to him by inquiry lawyers, "after which the court may direct that the balance of the sentence be vacated."

"If his contempt is not purged, the commissioner requests that this court order that Mr. Dunlop's contempt sentence by served in full."

A letter from the commission's legal counsel to Dunlop's B.C. lawyer indicates they'll be seeking a six-month sentence.

The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General is also expected to make sentencing submissions.

John Swales, who served as a liaison between alleged victims and a London, Ont., law firm at the outset of the inquiry, said he's grown frustrated with Dunlop's refusal to appear.

"It doesn't benefit anyone for him to sit in jail," said Swales, a victim of sexual abuse.

"It's as simple as telling your story. ... Get in there and give your evidence."

The justice system might not be perfect, but it's the best tool available to confront issues of sexual abuse and effect change, Swales said.

"After the countless victims that have painstakingly told their stories, who (is Dunlop) to bypass the process?"

One of the probe's watershed moments came during the testimony of Ron Leroux last June. Leroux had told Dunlop that, in the 1950s and early 1960s, he witnessed a clan of pedophiles that met on weekends at a cottage and, while clad in robes and using candles, sexually abused young boys.

In June, Leroux testified before the inquiry that he fabricated the story.

Sylvia MacEachern, who runs a website chronicling the inquiry, said she supports Dunlop's decision to boycott the proceedings.

"To feel it's essential to put Perry on the stand to hear his story, his story is in the voices of the victims," she said. ``That's Perry's story there is no other story.

"If some of those victims now say they recant, well, Perry's story doesn't change. It's not going to change."

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