Court transcript tells different version of Petrolia councillor’s 2018 withdrawal of criminal charges

Petrolia Councillor Marty Souch t

Souch was charged after investigation of town truck

It appears a Petrolia council member who faced criminal charges during the last municipal election didn’t tell the full story of why those charges were dropped.

In August 2018, just after the nominations for the municipal election closed, Marty Souch was charged with obtaining a document by false pretence. It stemmed from a two-year quest to figure out what happened to a town vehicle which had been damaged. Souch believed an employee using the truck after hours hit some posts. 

During his search, Souch requested information through the Information and Privacy Commission, but was turned down.

He revealed to The Independent at the time that he had an estimate for the repair of the truck.

A citizen complained and the police investigated, charging Souch with the unusual charge.

On election night, Souch told The Independent he had been in court that morning where the crown withdrew the charge “unconditionally” saying there wasn’t a reasonable chance of conviction.

But that’s not exactly the tale the transcript of the proceeding tells.

A court transcript obtained by The Independent shows Souch appeared in London on Oct. 22, 2018 before Justice of the Peace D. Issac. David Nichol was Assistant Crown Attorney and Souch was represented by S. Donahue, who was duty counsel at the time.

The Independent verified with the certified transcriptionist who created the file that the document is an accurate transcription of the recorded session. In it, Nichol says “This individual has completed the Direct Accountability Program. The Crown is requesting the charges be withdrawn.”

The Justice of the Peace then agrees to withdrawing the charges.

The Direct Accountability Program is an alternative to prosecution for people with no or limited prior involvement in the adult court system who have been charged with minor offences.

The John Howard Society of Ontario explains; “The accused person is held accountable through community based sanctions. To be eligible the person must be willing to accept responsibility for actions that led to the charge, be willing to make amends for their offence through an assigned task or sanction and complete an agreement which outline the terms to be met.”

Former Petrolia CAO Manny Baron also used the Direct Accountability Program just one month before Souch did.

Baron was charged with breach of trust in the wake of a scandal where he rented buildings he owned via a numbered company, back to the town. Baron resigned after an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner in 2017. 

The court case was resolved when Baron admitted responsibility through the program and paid the Petrolia Community Foundation $1,000 as restitution.

Souch, in an interview with The Independent Tuesday, denied he went through the Direct Accountability Program.

“I didn’t know anything about how it works,” he said of the program through the court system. “And they, (the crown attorney’s office) when they came to me, told me that there was nothing there. They didn’t have enough evidence to bring these charges through.

“There was not enough evidence in which to lay the charges and they were being withdrawn, and they would never come to court and it was done. They had no-no evidence of anything.”

The Independent asked Souch if he was involved in the Direct Accountability Program, “absolutely not … I admitted to nothing.”

The Independent could not find a record of what, if any, restitution, Souch gave.

Souch also tells The Independent he did not attend court when the charges were withdrawn.

However, the court transcript records Souch speaking during the hearing.

After the court agreed to withdraw the charge, Nichol says; “I believe Mr. Souch may seek a publication ban, though I don’t know what section of the Criminal Code would allow for a publication ban to be placed on this.”

Nichol goes on to explain that the court documents are not to be published. To which Souch is recorded as replying “Okay. Perfect. Thank you.”

Any member of the public can receive a transcription of any court case by paying a fee.

While Souch was not prohibited from running in the 2018 election because of the charge, it did hang over him and he was unable to attend one of two debates. 

It was held at Victoria Hall and his bail conditions prohibited him from being in the building.

Souch went on to win a seat on council garnering 11 per cent of the vote – 1,092 votes in all. 

 Election night 2018, Souch told The Independent, “With the obstacles and the hurdles I had to jump over … I think people knew I was telling the truth all along and I was thankful they had the faith in me.”

Souch is seeking re-election in the Oct. 24 vote.

Read the court transcript below: