Defense: Bouchard journals ‘confessional’

The Crown and defense wrapped up their closing statements in Michelle Bouchard’s theft trial Tuesday, both referring at times to the defendant’s journal, extracts of which had been read out in court earlier.

Michelle Bouchard
Michelle Bouchard

Bouchard, who has pleaded not guilty to stealing more than $2 million dollars from retiree James Bruce Handford, completed her evidence on Monday afternoon.

Defense counsel Peter Carter, in his summing up of the case Tuesday, described Ms. Bouchard’s journals as “a confessional” – thoughts as they came, expressions of agonizing and acknowledging deficiencies. He said the writing was Bouchard “baring her heart and soul,” not thinking they would see the light of day.

He wondered why large swathes of the writings were ignored when they supported what Bouchard said was happening. Throughout the journals, there were expressions of gratitude to God and to Mr. Handford, with phrases like “I will ask him” and “He has promised me …”

The prosecution had not found any passage that said “I will take” or “I have taken,” Mr. Carter pointed out.

Lead prosecutor Simon Russell-Flint, who concluded his closing remarks on Tuesday morning, referred to the various negative comments in Ms. Bouchard’s journals. They were not based on one day’s incident; they were spread over years, he said.

What Bouchard thanked God for, he asserted, was Mr. Handford keeping her in the lifestyle she enjoyed, keeping him well so that he could provide for her.

The alleged thefts and other acts of dishonesty are said by the prosecution to have taken place between May 2010 and October 2012, when Bouchard is accused of removing sums from a joint account for her own purposes.

The Crown’s case is that a joint CI account was set up so that Bouchard could look after Mr. Handford’s affairs while he was on his yearly trip back to his native Australia.

During Bouchard’s evidence, Mr. Carter showed her an email Mr. Handford had sent her on July 21, 2010 while he was in Australia. The email says he has just sent a fax to Butterfield Bank “to top up your checking account” by $35,000 as she had requested.

Mr. Carter asked Bouchard what account she understood Mr. Handford to be referring to.

“The joint account,” she replied, “which he referred to as my account.”

He asked if Mr. Handford had ever made any complaint about any item of expenditure in the joint account. “Never,” she replied. He asked if Mr. Handford had ever complained about any item in the U.S. joint account set up in 2012. “Never,” she said again.

Mr. Russell-Flint said the fact that funds were in joint accounts was not a defense and the money was never for Bouchard to do with as she pleased. “We say she has been thoroughly dishonest,” he told the jury.

Mr. Carter read reports from two doctors concerning Mr. Handford’s health and degree of cognitive impairment.

Attorney Lee Halliday-Davis also read into the record six letters of reference submitted by people who knew Bouchard in various capacities.

They referred to her talent, dedication to her work and various acts of charity.