Former Yukon Speaker David Laxton found not guilty of sexual assault

Laxton admitted that he hugged and kissed a female acquaintance after she met him at his office in the legislature last year, but denied it was an assault. A judge agreed, and said the charge was not proven.

Laxton kissed and hugged a female acquaintance, but judge says it wasn't assault

Former Speaker of the Yukon legislature David Laxton read a brief statement after the verdict was delivered on Monday. He thanked Yukoners 'for their support and respect while standing beside me during this very trying time.' (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

David Laxton, whose tenure as Speaker of the Yukon legislature ended last year with an accusation of sexual harassment, has been found not guilty of sexual assault.

Judge John Faulkner delivered the verdict Monday in Yukon Territorial Court.

"There remains doubt that what Mr. Laxton did amounted to a sexual assault," Faulkner's verdict reads.

"This being a criminal prosecution where the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, Mr. Laxton is entitled to the benefit of that doubt."

Laxton has admitted to kissing and hugging the complainant, when she came to meet him at the Speaker's office in February 2016.

He argued at his trial in August that he is by nature a physically demonstrative man, and was simply being friendly with a woman who was a long-time acquaintance. He also testified that he had been similarly physical with her in the past, and always in a friendly, non-sexual way.

The complainant disagreed, and told court there had never been such contact between them, and that she had given no indication of consent before Laxton's hug and kiss at the legislative building.

Faulkner decided, based on the evidence presented at trial, that Laxton's account was more believable.

"While I believe substantial portions of the complainant's testimony, I remain cautious about accepting it totally," his decision reads.

"In contrast, I found Laxton's evidence quite credible. He made no attempt to deny that he had hugged and kissed the complainant. He provided a more detailed and logical account of the meeting between himself and the complainant."

Resigned as Speaker in May 2016

Laxton resigned as Speaker in May 2016, a few months after the disputed interaction with the woman. The following week he issued a statement on Facebook explaining that he'd left due to an allegation of sexual harassment. 

Then in July 2016, the Yukon Human Rights Commission issued a statement saying Laxton and his accuser had reached "a mutually satisfactory agreement," and considered the matter "closed."

Two months later, Laxton was charged.

The Yukon Party also dumped him as a candidate last year, and Laxton did not run in the fall election. 

After the verdict was delivered Monday, Laxton read a brief statement outside the court house in Whitehorse. He thanked his family, friends, acquaintances, lawyers, and the Yukon community at large, "for their support and respect while standing beside me during this very trying time."

"It has been very difficult for my wife Leslie and she has not faltered. Together we have persevered through this ordeal," Laxton said.