Warning: This article contains graphic content. Discretion is advised.
A former police chief in Nova Scotia has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for sexually exploiting a teen for whom he was, as was described in court, like a “father-figure.”
John Collyer received the sentence at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater on Wednesday after the victim and her mother delivered emotional impact statements.
The former chief of police of the Bridgewater Police Service was found guilty of sexual exploitation and a sexual assault after a trial in 2018 but the sexual assault charge was stayed by Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Mona Lynch based on the principle that an accused cannot be convicted of two offences arising from the same actions.
Sexual exploitation involves the sexual touching of a minor by a person in a position of trust or authority.
Crown attorney Roland Levesque shares his thoughts on sentencing and trial. Including, the acceptance of the joint recommendation. pic.twitter.com/ZrTqGFavr5— Alexa MacLean (@AlexaMacLean902) March 4, 2020
The defence and Crown had submitted a joint recommendation for a 15-month jail sentence with a one-year period of probation upon release, which was accepted by Lynch on Wednesday.
Collyer will also be subject to other conditions, including abstaining from alcohol, being banned from having firearms and registering as a sexual offender.
Lynch recommended that Collyer serve the sentence in protective custody but the decision rests with the facility where he’ll be incarcerated.
Collyer was the head of the Bridgewater police in 2016 when he began grooming the youth for a sexual relationship.
The identity of the complainant is protected under a publication ban.
The complainant told the court that she initially brushed off Collyer’s inappropriate comments to her because she had a close relationship with Collyer and his wife, Sheri.
The couple had spent a great deal of time with the complainant’s family, offering them emotional and financial support. Collyer also took the youth to appointments, on shopping trips and sometimes to a beach near his home.
The Crown argued during the trial that Collyer’s relationship with the girl changed as she got older, developing into a sexual interest that he expressed through online conversations.
Collyer would later sexually assault her in his car.
The complainant said she felt like she lost herself because of Collyer’s actions and that she continues to suffer to this day, with people looking at her like she “is broken.”
Her medical records, which were admitted as evidence in the trial, show she had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
During Collyer’s trial in 2018, a psychiatrist testified that in 2016 the girl had an intellectual and emotional age of between 10 and 12 years old.
She thanked her supporters who never “gave up on her” and reminded her that “this wasn’t her fault.”
Levesque speaks to significant breach of trust by former police chief. pic.twitter.com/hzmxYrsexk— Alexa MacLean (@AlexaMacLean902) March 4, 2020
The girl told investigators that sometime in the spring of 2016, she and Collyer were driving in his small convertible when he asked if she could make herself have an orgasm, and he then reached between her legs, pushed aside her skirt and penetrated her with his fingers.
The girl said she did not agree to his advances. “The complainant was clear and did not waiver in the details of the events in the car,” said Lynch in her decision last year.
Five days after Collyer learned he was under investigation, the police chief reported that he had lost his cellphone. It was never found.
Lynch said it was reasonable to conclude Collyer had disposed of the cellphone to avoid recovery of its messages.
On Wednesday, the mother of the complaint told the court she felt like “a huge failure as a parent” when she learned of the sexual exploitation and that she “felt responsible for all of this.”
She said that her whole family had been victimized by Collyer’s actions.
“If you can’t trust the chief of police, who can you trust?” she asked.
Collyer declined to speak at the sentencing hearing.
The former police chief was placed on administrative leave from his position in August 2016. Two years later the Town of Bridgewater announced he was no longer an employee.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual assault, support can be found here.
–With files from The Canadian Press