Jury finds ex-teacher guilty of sexually exploiting student

A former teacher in Prince Albert, Sask., has been found guilty of sexual exploitation 20 years after having a relationship with a Grade 9 student, who was 15 years old at the time.

'Justice has been served,' victim says outside court

Bonnie McLachlan leaves court with her husband earlier in her trial. On Friday, after being found guilty of sexual exploitation of a student, McLachlan left court using a side door. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

A former Prince Albert, Sask., teacher has been found guilty of sexual exploitation 20 years after having a relationship with a Grade 9 student, who was 15 years old at the time.

Bonnie McLachlan, 52, was tried before a jury of 10 women and two men.

"Justice has been served," the victim, whose name can not be published, said after the verdict came down around noon Friday. "Our society is heading in the right direction by treating male and female victims in the same light."

When the verdict was delivered, McLachlan sat in her chair, quietly wiping tears from her face as friends and family members consoled her.

"She's a very strong person," McLachlan's lawyer, Peter Abrametz, said after court adjourned Friday. McLachlan was not taken into custody but will return to court next Wednesday for sentencing. "She's facing whatever is going to come with dignity and grace."

The jury had been considering the case since Thursday afternoon. At one point, on Thursday night, they told the judge they were divided. However, after reconvening Friday morning at 9, they reached a decision in three hours.

"I think it was the right decision," prosecutor Jennifer Claxton-Viczko, said. "I think there was more than enough evidence in front of the jury for a finding of guilt."

Earlier in the trial

McLachlan was charged after the victim came forward with a complaint as an adult. During her testimony, McLachlan denied having sex with the teen during the 1993-94 school year.

Her husband testified in the trial saying his wife has never been unfaithful.

The victim testified that a sexual relationship had developed between the two and that McLachlan was the one who initiated it.

He said they were first intimate in her car after he had finished a workout at a local gym.

Witnesses testified for the prosecution told the court the two often acted like a romantic couple.

One witnessed recalled the pair holding hands while on a school trip to Banff, while another witness remembered the two kissing and acting in a seductive manner in a pool, on the same trip.

A former principal and vice-principal at McLachlan's school said they had heard allegations of a relationship between the two, but were not aware that it had involved a sexual element.

2nd trial for McLachlan

This was the second time McLachlan was tried for the sexual exploitation charge.

She was found not guilty in a proceeding 18 months ago, in part because elements of the case that took place in Alberta were not properly before the court.

However, the case was appealed and a new trial was ordered.

With files from CBC's Ryan Pilon