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Judge won't hear former priest's previous crimes

Judge won't hear former priest's previous crimesCatholic priest Eric Dejaeger leaves an Iqaluit, Nunavut courtroom Jan. 20, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Windeyer

IQALUIT, Nunavut - A northern judge says he won't consider the previous convictions of a former priest accused of sexually abusing Inuit children.

Justice Robert Kilpatrick ruled Tuesday that he wouldn't allow eight convictions against Eric Dejaeger to stand as evidence in his current trial on 68 counts of abusing dozens of Inuit children more than 30 years ago.

Crown lawyers had argued that Dejaeger raised the issue of his character during his testimony. While referring to eight counts of sexual assault to which he pleaded guilty at the start of his trial, Dejaeger had said he wasn't a violent man.

Kilpatrick ruled Dejaeger had been trapped into those statements.

"The responses, when read in context, were given in defence of the specific criminal allegations then being discussed," wrote Kilpatrick. "They were never intended by the defendant to relate to a general character trait.

"An accused does not put his or her character into issue in circumstances where he or she is tricked into doing so by inappropriate questions raised by the Crown in cross-examination."

The judge wrote that Dejaeger has conceded that some of his actions were sexually violent, even though they were restricted to fondling, and that it isn't necessary to bring his earlier convictions into evidence.

Dejaeger was sentenced to five years in jail in 1989 for 10 sexual assaults he committed in Baker Lake, Nunavut, after leaving Igloolik.

The trial in Iqaluit is expected to wrap up by Friday.

Kilpatrick hasn't said when he might deliver a verdict. He has more than 1,500 pages of transcripts to review from the trial.

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