Edmonton

Edmonton prison guard charged with sexual assault also named in two harassment lawsuits

A former guard at Edmonton’s maximum security prison recently charged with the sexual assault of a female colleague, is one of the men at the centre of a $43-million lawsuit that alleges a culture of systemic harassment and abuse at the institution.

Graham Trevor Spilsbury identified as John Doe #1 in multi-million-dollar lawsuit

A 50-year-old guard at Edmonton Institution charged with the sexual assault a female colleague is named in two lawsuits. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

A former guard at Edmonton's maximum security prison recently charged with the sexual assault of a female colleague, is one of the men at the centre of a $43-million lawsuit that alleges a culture of systemic harassment and abuse at the institution.

CBC News has confirmed Graham Trevor Spilsbury is John Doe #1 in a civil suit filed by female correctional officers, who say they were propositioned for sex, dehumanized through vulgar actions and words, and physically tormented.

Edmonton police on Wednesday announced Spilsbury has been charged with sexually assaulting a co-worker and assaulting her with a weapon, namely a rubber glove.

But the statement of claim, filed last year, paints a much broader portrait of abuse amongst the prison's correctional officers, with Spilsbury allegedly a central figure. At one point in the document, he is referred to as "the chief tormenter" of one of the women.

Allegations about Spilsbury's behaviour towards female officers date back to at least 2007, and include everything from inappropriate texts and conversations, to waterboarding, to throwing a urine-filled rubber glove at one of the women on two occasions.

Spilsbury is also one of several guards named in a 2013 lawsuit by several inmates who said they humiliated, degraded and forced into fights with each other by guards.

But it wasn't until the fall of 2017 that Correctional Service Canada alerted police to allegations of criminal conduct at the prison, said Edmonton police in a release about the charges against Spilsbury.

The investigation into the case is not yet completed, said a police spokesperson, who also said she could not comment on whether additional charges are pending.

Allegations of degrading behaviour

In court documents, Spilsbury is described as a veteran correctional officer who was a manager on one of the units at the Edmonton Institution. He's described as an imposing figure, a military veteran weighing 265 pounds.

The statement of claim in the multi-million dollar lawsuit by the female guards includes multiple allegations of disturbing and degrading behaviour by Spilsbury.

The lawsuit alleges one woman was constantly pressured by Spilsbury to meet outside of work, that he tried to "force himself on her" and at one point, "handcuffed her to a chair using her own restraints and threatened to sexually assault her."

Another woman said he acted as a "father figure" when she first arrived at the institution as a 22-year-old rookie guard. But the woman said the relationship was toxic. She said Spilsbury "would often pull his genitalia out of his pants and parade himself around the office."

The lawsuit alleges Spilsbury harassed a female colleague and "handcuffed her to a chair using her own restraints and threatened to sexually assault her."- from a statement of claim launched by four female correctional officers

The woman also alleged Spilsbury would use his penis to stir the unattended drinks of female officers, and later laugh at them. 

None of the allegations in the statement of claim has been proven in court.

Erika Norheim, a lawyer for four of the inmates who launched a lawsuit against Spilsbury, said their case was recently settled. A non-disclosure agreement is in place, preventing the release of any details of the settlement. The inmates had also sued the prison's warden and the federal government. 

In an e-mailed statement, a Correctional Service Canada spokesperson confirmed Spilsbury is a former CSC employee who was terminated as part of an internal disciplinary investigation that also saw six other employees terminated.

According to court documents, Spilsbury's two criminal charges allege he sexually assaulted a co-worker between Jan. 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, and that he used a rubber glove — or threatened to use it — to assault the same woman between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 31, 2016.

Spilsbury has been released from custody and is scheduled to make his first court appearance on April 17.

— With files from Janice Johnston