TORONTO – A Toronto police officer has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two women in his cruiser.
It was the second trial for Sgt. Christopher Heard, a 23-year-veteran of the force, who was found not guilty of the same charges last year, but was ordered to stand trial again after an appeal court ruling.
The two women testified at trial that they were picked up by Heard and given rides home after a night out when the officer grabbed each on the upper thigh without their consent.
Heard denied on the stand in June that he touched either woman and said their allegations were motivated by grudges against police officers.
Justice Philip Downes said he believed the two women, adding Heard was not a credible witness.
“I find that these two women told the truth about what Sgt. Heard did to them,” Downes wrote in his decision delivered Thursday.
Court heard that one woman, named only as S.F. – the identity of sexual assault victims is protected by a publication ban – testified that she had drinks with a friend on Sept. 23, 2015. She began walking her bicycle home after midnight when Heard pulled up in his police truck and repeatedly offered her a ride home, the judge wrote.
The woman said she repeatedly declined the offer, but eventually gave in, at 12:53 a.m.
S.F. said Heard immediately told her she was beautiful and grabbed her upper inner thigh.
“Get off me,” S.F. said to the officer, the judge wrote.
She said he missed a turn to take her home and then stopped his cruiser and again grabbed her in the same spot. She was dropped off at home at 1:08 a.m. and after talking to her father and boss the next day, decided to file a complaint to police.
Heard said the woman fabricated the story.
Another woman, M.N., testified that on Nov 1., 2015, she went to a downtown bar and stayed until around last call at 2 a.m. She said she was outside when Heard rolled up in his cruiser and asked her if she was OK and offered her a ride home.
“He is a cop. So, I trusted him,” she testified.
She got into the front passenger seat of the cruiser at 2:48 a.m. and was outside her mother’s apartment building at 3:03 a.m., the decision said.
“She said Sgt. Heard touched her on her left inner thigh, close to her pelvic bone,” the judge wrote.
M.N. asked “what are you doing?”, pushed him away and got out of the car. She later reported the incident to police when she read a news article about the other woman’s complaint against Heard.
Heard said M.N. made up the story.
The judge said Heard’s testimony wasn’t credible. Heard, Downes wrote in his decision, was the supervisor of one of the busiest and crime-filled neighbourhoods, yet took the time – against police policy – to drive the women home during the busy portion of the shift.
“I accept the evidence of both S.F. and M.N.,” the judge wrote.
“Viewed in the context of the evidence as a whole, I am satisfied that it establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Sgt. Heard touched both women without their consent in circumstances of a sexual nature, such that he violated their sexual integrity.”
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 4.