Nfld. & Labrador

Teenage boy found not guilty of sexual assaults on school bus

The family of one alleged victim says the system failed her. Judge Wayne Gorman says the Crown failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Family of one alleged victim says system failed her

A Corner Brook provincial court judge has found a teenage boy not guilty of three counts of sexual assault on a school bus. (Adam Carter/CBC)

A teenage boy from western Newfoundland has been found not guilty of three counts of sexual assault, prompting outrage from the family of one of the alleged victims.

The incidents were alleged to have happened on a school bus involving two girls who were eight and nine at the time of the alleged assaults.

But a Corner Brook provincial court judge ruled earlier this month that the Crown didn't prove its case, and he acquitted the boy, who was 14 at the time of the alleged incidents, of all three charges.

"I have concluded that the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [the accused] committed any of the offences with which he is charged," wrote Judge Wayne Gorman in his May 14 judgment.

We do not question for a second the validity of our daughter's testimony.- Statement by family of one of the complainants

The ruling brings to an end nearly a year of police investigation and court proceedings after two girls at the boy's school alleged they had been sexually assaulted while on the school bus.

Neither the boy nor the alleged victims may be identified, as the allegations and charges come under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Reasonable doubt

In his ruling, Judge Wayne Gorman wrote the girls were "credible and believable" witnesses, and he acknowledged that a child's testimony may generate an "instinctive sense of compassion."

However, he said, a trial judge has to weigh the sum total of evidence presented, and determine if the Crown has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

As noted in the judge's ruling, one of the complainants, referred to as "X," testified that "while she was sitting next to [the accused] on the school bus, he touched her with his hand, outside of her clothing. X testified that [he] placed his hand 'between' the upper parts of her 'thighs.' She indicated that she 'pushed him away' and that she 'knew it was wrong.'"

Judge Wayne Gorman says the Crown did not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. (CBC)

The other complainant, "Y," took the same bus to school as X and the accused.

"She indicated that she knew [the accused] as a 'friend, but now I don't,'" wrote Gorman in his ruling. "When asked why she and [the accused] were no longer friends, Y indicated that they were no longer friends because he 'touched
my private parts.' When Y was asked to describe what she meant by 'private parts,' she referred to her 'vagina and bum.'"

The accused testified in his own defence, denying all the allegations, and Gorman said his testimony was "clear and direct," "not evasive or hesitant," and that the boy was "a very impressive witness."

Gorman said he found the evidence presented by the Crown was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had committed the offences.

Response from family

The family of one of the girls at the centre of this case told CBC that they feel the judge's ruling came down to the word of the accused against the testimony of their daughter and the other girl.

In a prepared joint written statement provided to the CBC, the family said their daughter has a strong support system that is helping ease her stress, but it is upsetting nonetheless.

"She cries, and she doesn't understand the not guilty verdict," they wrote, adding they wouldn't like to see an appeal of the verdict unless they knew the outcome would be entirely different.

"Our daughter has been through so much and we feel it's time for us to move forward and concentrate on the positives," wrote the family.

Despite the ruling, the family stands by their daughter's allegations.

"We do not question for a second the validity of our daughter's testimony," they wrote.

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