Hockey icon Guy Lafleur, accompanied by his wife Lise, arrives at the Montreal court. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
MONTREAL - Guy Lafleur, one of the most revered players in Montreal Canadiens history, must stand trial even though his rights were infringed when authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Lafleur will go on trial April 16 and 17 on a charge of giving contradictory evidence in court.
"The illegal emission of an arrest warrant does not endanger in any way the fairness of a trial," Quebec court Judge Claude Parent said.
Lafleur was charged last year after he testified during his son Mark's bail hearing on various charges, including uttering death threats, forcible confinement and assault.
Lafleur had agreed to supervise his son and to ensure he abided by a court-ordered curfew.
But it was later revealed the elder Lafleur had driven his son to a hotel so he could spend time with a girlfriend.
Authorities then issued a warrant for Guy Lafleur's arrest, triggering a media frenzy the hockey icon said left him humiliated, partly because he had to go to a police station.
His lawyers argued the warrant was illegal and that it should spell an immediate end to the case against him.
Parent agreed that charging Lafleur with a summary offence and getting him to promise to appear in court would have been sufficient.
"If the dispositions in the Criminal Code had been properly applied, Guy Lafleur would have received a summons ordering him to appear before a court on a charge of giving contradictory testimony," Parent said.
"He would not have had to present himself at the police station."
But at the same the judge didn't necessarily agree that would have changed the widespread media interest in the case.
"The fact that Guy Lafleur is charged in front of a criminal court to answer to a charge of giving contradictory testimony would necessarily be the object of numerous reports, no matter the method of how he was charged," Parent noted.
Jean-Pierre Rancourt, a lawyer who acts as the family spokesman, said Guy Lafleur is ready to defend himself.
"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.
The Crown has repeatedly stated that giving contradictory evidence in court is a serious offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.