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Ex-police chief sentenced to 15 months in jail for sexually exploiting teen

BRIDGEWATER, N.S. — Moments before a former Nova Scotia police chief was sentenced to 15 months in jail for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl, the victim read a statement in court, describing John Collyer as the "monster" who ruined her life.

BRIDGEWATER, N.S. — Moments before a former Nova Scotia police chief was sentenced to 15 months in jail for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl, the victim read a statement in court, describing John Collyer as the "monster" who ruined her life.

The woman, now 20, spoke in a clear but monotone voice, saying Collyer was like a father to her when she and her mother moved to Nova Scotia and were in need support from the community of Bridgewater, which is near the province's southwestern coast.

She said Collyer, then deputy chief of the Bridgewater Police Service, and his wife stepped forward to help.

Court heard the senior police officer became a mentor to the girl, who was then 12 years old. He took her to appointments, on shopping trips and sometimes to a beach near his home.

But something happened when she turned 15, she said.

"The things he said to me got worse, but I didn't tell anyone about what he would say to me," she said, clutching a yellow sheet of paper. "One day, I went with John and he started crying, saying he couldn't trust himself around me anymore. He was acting like things were my fault."

As she spoke in court, Collyer sat motionless in the front row of the public gallery, his wife of 33 years at his side. Wearing a grey suit and green shirt and tie, the balding and bespectacled 56-year-old kept his hands folded in his lap, and his face remained expressionless.

Though Collyer has denied any sexual interest in the complainant and has maintained his innocence, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Mona Lynch convicted him of sexual exploitation last October.

During Collyer's trial, a psychiatrist testified that at the time of the offence, the girl had an intellectual and emotional age of between 10 and 12 years old.

The court also heard that the girl's mother gave investigators screen shots of sexually suggestive online messages that Collyer had sent to the girl.

In particular, one video included images of a small dog tugging at the bikini of a young woman.

Collyer sent a message with the video, telling the girl: "Guess which little dog I'm rooting to win the tug of war! ... I wonder if you could train yours to do that."

At the conclusion of the trial, Lynch said the intent of that and other messages "led to an inference of an older man grooming a young girl to have sexual contact." The judge said the complainant did not respond to Collyer's remarks in a suggestive way.

The victim, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, 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 give her consent. "The complainant was clear and did not waiver in the details of the events in the car," Lynch said in her ruling.

On Wednesday, the woman talked about the incident in the car.

 "I couldn't figure out what I did to make him think I wanted that," she said.

The assault transformed her from a fun and outgoing person to a reclusive, suspicious individual who "not even my family wants to be around."

She said people now look at her as if she was "broken."

"I was always told that the only monsters I had to worry about were the ones in the movies or under the bed," she said. "John, you're the monster I'm looking out for now."

Her mother also read a statement in court, saying other people had warned her that Collyer and her daughter were spending too much time together in 2016.

"If you can't trust the chief of police, who can you trust?" she said. "I felt like a large failure as a parent for letting that happen .... I feel responsible for all of this."

Collyer, who now works in landscaping and snow removal, was also sentenced to one year of probation and his DNA will be added to the national sex offender registry for 20 years.

Outside the court, Crown prosecutor Roland Levesque said Collyer's crime marked a serious breach of trust for the community.

"As a society we depend on police officers to uphold the law and to protect us," he said. "When a police officer breaches that trust ... it's very disheartening for everyone in the community."

The 26-year veteran of the police force was originally charged in May 2017 with sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation, but one of the exploitation charges was withdrawn. He was suspended from the force shortly afterwards.

Sexual exploitation involves the sexual touching of a minor by a person in a position of trust or authority.

Collyer was tried on one count of sexual assault and one of sexual exploitation. Lynch found him guilty of both crimes, but she ordered a conditional stay on the sexual assault conviction based on the principle that an accused cannot be convicted of two offences arising from the same actions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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