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The lawyer for one of three men who escaped from a Quebec City detention centre in a helicopter over the weekend says the Quebec Superior Court is going ahead with the drug-trafficking case against his client despite his disappearance.

Rodrigue Beauchesne confirmed to CBC News that he will be in court today to represent his fugitive client, Yves Denis.

Denis, 35, escaped Saturday evening along with Denis Lefebvre, 53, and 49-year-old Serge Pomerleau​ in a helicopter from the Orsainville Detention Centre in suburban Quebec City.

The three men are facing multiple court proceedings on charges including drug trafficking, premeditated murder and gangsterism.

Beauchesne couldn t say what new charges his client could face as a result of his escape.

A fourth man who is facing the same charges as the three escaped inmates will go to trial without them. Radio-Canada is reporting that Thierry Béland was part of the escape plan but did not make the helicopter.

Security recently loosened

The murder charges, which are scheduled to be prosecuted in January 2015, are connected to the deaths of two men, Johnny Coutu and Benoît Denis.

Coutu was killed in Laval in July 2009 and Denis was killed in Joliette in May 2010.

If convicted on the murder charges, the three men could face life in prison.

Denis, Lefebvre and Pomerleau were arrested in 2010 after a drug operation bust in Abitibi known as Project Crayfish that led to dozens of arrests. They were reported to have had ties to the Hells Angels.

Quebec’s provincial police force says the men are dangerous and have added their names to the province’s 10 most wanted criminals list. They have also notified police departments across Canada and in the United States about the escapr.

Beauchesne confirmed to CBC News that some of the strict security conditions his client had been subject to had recently been reduced at the lawyer s request.

Earlier measures in place against Denis, Lefebvre and Pomerleau required that they be placed in handcuffs and leg irons whenever they left their cells. Beauchesne said that requirement had been lifted.

That move was criticized by Mathieu Lavoie, head of Quebec s prison guards union. 

Lavoie also said the province s prison guards aren t equipped for such situations. 

What can we do against a helicopter? Yes, our guards are armed, but the rules of engagement prevent them from firing on vehicles, and that would include helicopters, he said.

Michel Martin, a retired provincial police officer, told CBC News that shooting at a helicopter would not be advisable. 

You don t know if the pilot is a hostage. It s better to let it go and catch them afterward then to open fire on a flying aircraft that s maybe going to fall on your head, he said. 

Both Lavoie and Martin said the addition of steel cables across open spaces where a helicopter could land are needed at prisons in Quebec. A similar escape happened at a correctional facility in St-Jérôme in 2013. 

Martin also said the fact prisons keep inmates on scheduled routines makes planning such escapes easier. 

If always you keep the same pattern, people looking to escape know the right time to try, he said. 

A spokesperson for Quebec s public security minister said the department is looking into what changes can be made to prevent similar escapes from happening again.


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