Teacher accused of sex offences against student stands trial

Warning: This story contains graphic content and may not be suitable for all readers.

The verdict for a teacher at School District No. 46 accused of two sex offences against one of his students is expected no later than the end of June.

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Last August the teacher, 29, pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference against a person under 16. The trial took place at the Sechelt courthouse on April 4 and 5, overseen by provincial court Judge Steven Merrick.

Details that could reveal the identity of the complainant cannot be disclosed because of a publication ban.

In a police statement heard by the court, the complainant alleged that during a class activity last June, the boy, then in Grade 2, became aroused after seeing a girl he had a crush on. At that point, the teacher walked over to the boy, asked whether he was OK and placed his hands on the complainant’s erect penis and buttocks, over his clothes. The complainant testified that the alleged incident lasted approximately two minutes.

“I was so shocked I couldn’t even talk,” the boy told police.

During his testimony via closed-circuit television, the boy confirmed his statement to police that the teacher pushed his groin.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Claire Hatcher questioned the complainant about several details around the incident, such as its duration, whether the boy was fidgeting with his clothing, and his pre-existing dislike of the teacher.

Crown prosecutor Trevor Cockfield then called a teaching assistant as witness, who testified that as she was entering the classroom with another student, she noticed the two standing together in the room, that the defendant’s arm was across the complainant’s chest with one hand below the pant line on the groin, and that it was “a weird position to be in.” She estimated the incident lasted between five and 10 seconds.

During cross-examination, the education assistant said she did not witness any contact with the child’s buttocks and that the incident may have been shorter than five seconds.

In the afternoon, the defendant’s voluntary police statement was submitted as evidence.

The defendant told police he noticed the complainant was fidgeting with his shirt and that he may have noticed the erection, that he put his hand on the boy’s shoulders and may have brushed him. He said the interaction took about five to 10 seconds.

While on the stand the defendant said he did not notice the child’s erection. When Hatcher asked whether he touched the boy for sexual purposes the defendant replied, “Absolutely not,” adding that he would “never intentionally place my hand in that area.”

Closing statements lasted more than an hour on April 5, with Hatcher arguing there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit the defendant on both counts.

She said the complainant’s evidence showed “internal inconsistencies” and that he was unreliable as a witness. She said if any touching had occurred, it was “purely accidental.”

In his closing argument, Cockfield told the judge the situation was straightforward, that the touch was “was more than a fleeting moment,” and that the teacher “pushed” on the boy’s erection for a “period of time.”

It was the defendant’s testimony that was “vague, unclear and contradictory,” argued Cockfield, saying the defendant denied in court that he saw the erection, but that in his police statement suggested he “saw it from the side.”

The complainant’s “sexual integrity” and privacy were “undoubtedly violated,” said Cockfield, adding that the body part touched was relevant – a “key to this case.”

The teacher has been on unpaid suspension since June 5 and is living off-Coast with his parents.

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