Legend Lafleur ordered to stand trial

September 13, 2009, 6:33 AM

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL — Hockey legend Guy Lafleur will have to stand trial in April on a charge of obstruction of justice after a judge said Wednesday there was no justification for the stay of proceedings he had been seeking.

But Quebec court Judge Claude Parent said the arrest warrant issued against the retired Montreal Canadiens forward was unnecessary and violated Lafleur’s charter right to not be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

The trial has been set for April 16 and 17.

The charge was laid last year after Lafleur testified during his son Mark’s bail hearing on various charges, including uttering death threats, forcible confinement and assault.

Lafleur agreed to supervise his son and to ensure he abided by a court-ordered curfew.

But it was later revealed the elder Lafleur actually drove his son to a hotel so he could spend time with a girlfriend.

Authorities later issued a warrant for Guy Lafleur’s arrest, triggering a media frenzy that Lafleur said left him humiliated.

His lawyers argued the warrant was illegal and should spell an immediate end to the case against him.

Lawyer Louis Belleau told Parent earlier this year the Crown, the Montreal police and the justice of the peace who signed off on the warrant each erred in their roles.

Another defence lawyer said the Crown and the police could have found a less public way to get Lafleur to face the charges.

Parent said Wednesday the warrant used to arrest Lafleur was unnecessary and that the ex-Canadiens star should not have had to go to a police station to be charged.

Charging Lafleur with a summary offence and getting him to promise to appear in court would have been sufficient, Parent said.

But the judge said that didn’t mean legal proceedings against him should be dropped.

Jean-Pierre Rancourt, a lawyer who acts as the Lafleur family spokesman, said his client is ready to proceed in April.

"It’s a very good judgment," Rancourt said. "I would have preferred to have a stay of proceedings at this point but we are ready to go to trial.

"He feels very good to go and testify in front of the judge."

The Crown has argued it was well within its rights to issue the warrant and that authorities went out of their way to protect Lafleur’s privacy, given his high standing in Quebec society.

"We’re very happy that the judge agreed that it certainly was not a case to stay the proceedings, that there was no conduct that was so reprehensible that it would demand the proceedings be stayed automatically," said prosecutor Lori-Renee Weitzman.

"The judge did say we should have proceeded by summons but there was nothing untoward in the way Mr. Lafleur was treated on his arrest."

Lafleur has said he is no criminal and has launched a $3.5-million civil suit against the police and the Crown over the warrant.

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