Accuser’s testimony lacks credibility to convict retired priest of 1969 residential school sex assault, lawyer argues

Memories lost to the passage of time and inconsistencies in the testimony of a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by retired Catholic priest Arthur Masse at a residential school more than 50 years ago raise a reasonable doubt as to his guilt, his lawyer argued Wednesday.

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Memories lost to the passage of time and inconsistencies in the testimony of a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by retired Catholic priest Arthur Masse at a residential school more than 50 years ago raise a reasonable doubt as to his guilt, his lawyer argued Wednesday.

Masse, 93, is being tried on one count of indecent assault allegedly committed during his time working at the Fort Alexander Residential school in the late 1960s.

Victoria McIntosh, 63, testified Tuesday that Masse groped and kissed her on one occasion in a school washroom in 1969 when she was 10 years old.

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
                                <p>Father Arthur Masse, leaves the Law Courts building with his lawyer during lunch break in sexual assault case Tuesday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Father Arthur Masse, leaves the Law Courts building with his lawyer during lunch break in sexual assault case Tuesday.

McIntosh and Masse were the only witnesses to testify during the trial.

In his closing argument Wednesday, Masse’s lawyer George Green told King’s Bench Justice Candace Grammond that McIntosh’s evidence was not credible enough to rely on without corroboration.

“Allegations of sexual assault are an extremely sensitive topic, and they should be,” but consideration of reasonable doubt still applies, Green said.

“We submit that even in cases of sexual assault, no victim enjoys a presumption of truth,” he said.

McIntosh testified Masse was “always” visiting the student washroom, but she and other students never knew why.

McIntosh said she had just walked into the washroom “and felt like there was someone else (in one of the stalls).”

“I was ready to sit down (in a stall) and the door opened and (Masse) walked in,” she said.

Masse picked McIntosh up, pinned her against the wall, fondled her over her clothes and roughly kissed her, she said.

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
                                <p>Victoria McIntosh, 63, testified Tuesday that Arthur Masse groped and kissed her on one occasion in a school washroom in 1969 when she was 10 years old.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Victoria McIntosh, 63, testified Tuesday that Arthur Masse groped and kissed her on one occasion in a school washroom in 1969 when she was 10 years old.

“I was scared and nauseated all at the same time,” she said. “I slipped away from him and I ran away from there.”

As she ran from the washroom, Masse said: “Don’t say anything,” McIntosh testified.

The Crown called no other witness who could corroborate McIntosh’s claim Masse regularly visited the student washroom, Green said. As well, McIntosh provided inconsistent testimony as to whether Masse fondled her underneath her clothes and made no mention in a 2015 police statement of Masse telling her not to say anything.

Under cross-examination Tuesday, McIntosh agreed she did not mention the assault allegation in a 2013 statement she provided in support of a residential school financial settlement claim.

“The cumulative effect of these inconsistencies should cause the court to question her credibility,” Green said, adding an inability to remember the names of other teachers, staff and students affected the reliability of both McIntosh’s and Masse’s evidence.

Masse testified he did not assault McIntosh, who he did not remember, and never visited the student washrooms.

“The court has no reason to disbelieve Father Masse’s unequivocal denial,” Green said.

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
                                <p>Father Arthur Masse testified he did not assault McIntosh, who he did not remember, and never visited the student washrooms.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Father Arthur Masse testified he did not assault McIntosh, who he did not remember, and never visited the student washrooms.

Crown attorney Danielle Simard said McIntosh was clear in her testimony who assaulted her, providing court with an accurate description of what he would have looked like and the clothes he would have been wearing, and remained unshaken on cross-examination.

“The simple fact of the passage of time does not render a witness uncredible or unreliable,” she said.

Grammond will deliver her verdict on March 30.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

History

Updated on Thursday, March 9, 2023 1:55 PM CST: Corrects hed to "retired" from "ex"

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