|No Charges Laid for Alleged Death Threats
By Trevor Pritchard
December 3, 2008
It would have been "contrary to public interest" to lay charges against three men accused of issuing death threats against Perry Dunlop's family, the Cornwall Public Inquiry heard Tuesday.
That was the conclusion that regional Crown attorney Robert Pelletier reached in December 1998 after a nearly two-year investigation by Det. Insp. Pat Hall, a now-retired officer with the Ontario Provincial Police.
Yesterday was Hall's first full day on the stand at the long-running inquiry into historical sexual abuse allegations.
In March 1997, Hall was assigned to look into claims that Dunlop, his wife Helen, and their three daughters had been threatened four years earlier by three men: Ken Seguin, Malcolm MacDonald, and Rev. Charles MacDonald.
Two of the men - Seguin, a local probation officer, and Charles MacDonald - had been the focus of abuse allegations that David Silmser brought to the attention of the Cornwall Police Service in December 1992.
Malcolm MacDonald, a city lawyer, helped broker a $32,000 deal in 1993 between Silmser, Charles MacDonald, and the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese that prevented Silmser from pursuing further charges.
That same year, Dunlop had turned over the statement Silmser gave the CPS to the Children's Aid Society after his own force stopped its investigation.
Hall's 1997 investigation arose after alleged sexual abuse victim Ron Leroux told the OPP he'd overheard the three men discuss plans to "rub out" Dunlop's family, shortly after Dunlop disclosed the statement.
Leroux's allegations first appeared in a series of documents Dunlop sent to the former head of the London, Ont. police force, current OPP commissioner Julian Fantino, in December 1996.
That date set off some early alarm bells, Hall said Tuesday.
"I had some difficulty . . . seeing as it went for such a period of time and had not got reported," he said.
Over the ensuing 22 months, Hall discussed the case on multiple occasions with an increasingly upset Helen Dunlop, who felt their allegations were not being taken seriously.
Hall told the inquiry he didn't take a statement from Leroux until November 1997, eight months after beginning his investigation. Charles MacDonald was not approached for an interview until January 1998, and Malcolm MacDonald was not interviewed until the following June, he said.
Seguin had committed suicide in 1993.
Hall recounted one conversation in the summer of 1997 with a "very vocal, very loud" Helen Dunlop, who'd paged him for information on how the case was progressing.
"It was one of those phone calls where you could hold the phone from your ear, and you could hear the conversation quite well," said Hall.
Hall gave lead commission counsel Peter Engelmann a number of reasons why the case didn't move faster, from a homicide investigation to the province's ice storm in 1998. He was also tied up interviewing witnesses who might testify in Charles MacDonald's sex abuse case, he said.
By that time, Charles MacDonald had been charged by the OPP with sexually abusing a number of young boys. The charges were stayed in 2002 after a judge ruled his right to a speedy trial had been violated.
After Hall took his findings to Pelletier's office, the regional Crown decided there wasn't enough evidence to charge either Charles MacDonald or Malcolm MacDonald with issuing death threats.
In a letter to Hall, Pelletier wrote he was concerned Leroux had kept silent about the alleged threats for three years. Pelletier also felt that what Leroux said he heard required "a certain amount of extrapolation" to be considered a threat against the Dunlops' lives.
"I have come to the conclusion that reasonable and probable grounds do not exist . . . if grounds were said to exist, it would presently be contrary to the public interest to pursue this matter," wrote Pelletier.
Engelmann asked Hall if he agreed with the attorney's assessment.
"There was no doubt in my mind (we didn't have grounds)," said Hall.
Engelmann also asked whether Hall felt the outcome of the death threat investigation "damaged" the Dunlops' view of Project Truth, the OPP's investigation into rumours prominent citizens had sexually abused children in the Cornwall area.
Hall was one of Project Truth's two lead officers.
"It probably had an effect," said Hall. "Anybody, when they make an allegation and you don't lay charges, is probably going to be upset."
The inquiry resumes at 9 a. m. today.
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