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Deborah Ashton sheds tears over not guilty verdict

VERNON — Relief at last for Deborah Ashton.

The former Vernon teacher was found not guilty Friday of two counts of perjury in the third trial she’s been through stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct with a grade seven student.

Ashton first faced sexual assault charges in 2011 in a trial that ended with a hung jury.

Last spring she was acquitted of those charges in a second trial but says the sting of the allegations hasn’t faded.

“It hurt because I spent most of my profession advocating on behalf of my students” says Ashton.

In Friday’s verdict, which marked the conclusion of her third trial, the 48-year-old faced two counts of perjury stemming from her original trial over two years ago.

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Ashton was accused of lying under oath when she denied purchasing a bracelet for the student, and in relation to how many times she picked up and dropped off her son at daycare during the alleged affair.

The judge said he wasn’t persuaded she had knowingly lied about either issue.

However, despite favourable results for the former teacher, Ashton says the system has to change.

“I understand protecting minors who have made claims about sexual assault and i want those minors to keep coming forward, but people who have been wrongly accused, there’s no safety net for them right now.”

She also says the whole ordeal has shaken her confidence and she likely wouldn’t return to teaching in the public school system.