Quebec author Yvan Godbout, who had been accused of producing child pornography for extracts from a successful novel, has just been acquitted by a judge who, in passing, invalidated provisions of the law that were too broad, according to him.
“Many people and public institutions, such as university, municipal or school libraries as well as bookstores, potentially find themselves in a position to be the subject of charges […] since they own, lend or sell such works ”, commented Judge Marc-André Blanchard in a decision rendered at the Sorel-Tracy courthouse.
Since February 2019, Mr. Godbout had been facing charges of producing child pornography, due to his novel Hansel and Gretel , which contained passages of a child pornography. The 250-page work was one of horror and fiction, with passages describing the ordeal of a brother and sister.
The book, which was sold in supermarkets, contained a warning to readers, but it was not enough for a citizen who complained to the police.
Mr. Godbout was questioned for the first time in 2018, only to be arrested at his home during a major police deployment, while he was sleeping with his spouse. All of his computer equipment was seized, and the police interrogated him for five hours, questioning him about his sexuality, among other things.
“The court can only note the a priori astonishing, not to say exorbitant, nature of the means deployed, noted the judge recalling that the material in dispute was widely available in bookstores and even at Costco. One can seriously question the appropriateness of the measures taken by the police in the circumstances. ”
Mr. Godbout has since had to defend himself against these accusations, in addition to the stigma associated with those awaiting trial for crimes against children. Besides spending a lot of money, he lost his motivation to write.
“He says he feels a victim of the fierceness of the state,” added the judge.
Freedom of expression
Except that a few weeks before his jury trial, Mr. Godbout obtained, this Thursday, a major victory with his acquittal across the board. The novelist had always said that he was not condoning child pornography, quite the contrary.
“Sexual violence against children is the worst disgust that can exist,” he had also repeated loudly in court.
At a hearing, he pleaded that his freedom of expression had been impeded, while the Crown as well as the state wanted to continue the legal process, defending the indictment.
Not a white card
But after analyzing the law, the judge concluded that some sections of the Criminal Code were too broad. In fact, they were so broad that a victim of pedophilia might not necessarily be able to tell her own story in order to denounce her attacker, if she so desired.
“The victim must be able to transmit his message to whomever he wants to transmit it, whether it is a single interlocutor or the whole world, without having to feel limited by a legislative straitjacket”, noted the magistrate.
Note that the invalidation of these articles does not give carte blanche to pedophiles, but that it avoids the laying of charges in very specific cases, such as that of Mr. Godbout.
Mr. Godbout was represented by Messrs Jean-Philippe Marcoux and Jean-Sébastien St-Amand Grinois, while his publishing house ADA, also acquitted, was defended by Me Charles Montpetit. Me Geneviève Beaudin acted for the Crown, while Me Michel Déom and Anne-Sophie Bordeleau-Roy represented the Attorney General of Quebec.