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“It’s good that it can finally start,” De Pauw said on Wednesday when he arrived at the Mechelen courthouse. “We had to wait four years for it. We have prepared very well. I’ll be glad when it’s over.” The civil parties will have their say on Wednesday. “It will be brutal, I think”, said De Pauw.
Bart De Pauw is accused of assaulting at least thirteen women with whom he worked by sending them unwanted sexually explicit messages. He also came to some of the women’s home addresses. The women would have told him that they could not appreciate this, but even then, according to them, the messages kept coming.
A few went to the prevention advisor of the VRT in 2017, with the intention of getting De Pauw to stop. The latter was put on hold by the VRT and came out with the story itself. The Mechelen court then decided to start an investigation and in September 2020 De Pauw was referred by the council chamber to the criminal court.
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The trial against De Pauw was already initiated in January, but then an additional question came from De Pauw’s defense to be able to inspect a sealed envelope. That envelope contained the first statements that some victims had made to the prevention advisor of the VRT. However, the court decided that the envelope remained closed because otherwise the professional secrecy of the prevention advisor would be violated. Moreover, the defense had already submitted the request to open the sealed envelope to the Indictment Chamber, which rejected that request on May 17, 2019, and the same debate cannot be repeated before the factual judge.
All parties have already communicated their conclusions to each other in writing. The Public Prosecution Service and the civil parties will have their say on Wednesday, so then we will know the advanced sentence for the television maker. On the benches of the bourgeois parties are nine of the thirteen women who emerged from the investigation as alleged victims. These include the actresses Maaike Cafmeyer and Liesa Naert (two women with whom De Pauw had an extramarital relationship), Ella-June Henrard and Lize Feryn.
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The Institute for Equality of Women and Men (IGVM) also filed a civil party. All bourgeois parties are represented by masters Christine Mussche and An-Sofie Raes. A few days ago it turned out that several other women have since testified about similar facts. However, they can no longer file a civil party since their testimony came after the introductory session. The four women who are already mentioned in the file, but who were not yet a civil party, can still join this lawsuit.
Two years in prison
The defense will speak on Thursday. De Pauw enlisted the help of masters John Maes and Michaël Verhaeghe, who are resolutely in favor of the acquittal and believe that no crime has been committed. After the defense, each party receives a final reply and the file is considered by the three judges.
The verdict is expected at the earliest four weeks after the last day of the trial. That is on November 11, a legal holiday so it may not be until November 18. However, there is a real chance that the court will take more time for the verdict and that it will not be ready until December. If found guilty, De Pauw faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
12 million euros
In the meantime, De Pauw has also started civil proceedings before the court in Brussels against the VRT. De Pauw, his production house and his family believe that the termination of their collaboration was premature and has led to enormous reputational damage. All together, around 12 million euros in damages were claimed.
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