Criminal law, Quebec Court of Appeal, Rulings
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Man acquitted of sexual assault because professional secrecy was breached

A man convicted of sexually assaulting a four-year-old child was acquitted by the Quebec Court of Appeal after it held that a confession he made during therapy should have been protected by professional secrecy.

The decision by the divided Appeal Court underlines that therapy group sessions do not mitigate a medical professional’s confidentiality obligations, reaffirms that professionals may be relieved of the duty of confidentiality but only under specific circumstances, and provides guidance over the role the Charter plays in the application of the so-called Wigmore test which determines whether or not communications are privileged, according to criminal lawyers.

“No one is going to seek treatment if they know that every time they say something, it will be used against them,” noted Marie-Pier Boulet, a Montreal criminal lawyer who heads the Association Of Defense Counsel of Quebec. “Essentially, the Appeal Court wants to protect professional secrecy in a therapeutic setting. Just as we want to protect therapeutic privileges of complainants so that they continue to have confidence that their privacy will be respected, their right to therapy and their right to professional confidentiality, the accused too have that right. Otherwise, no one is going to get help.”

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This story was originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily.


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