Nova Scotia

Parole granted to former Bridgewater police chief convicted of sexually exploiting teen

After five months in jail, former Bridgewater police Chief John Collyer will be released on full parole after being convicted of sexually exploiting a teenage girl in March.

John Collyer is not considered an  'undue risk to society,' according to the parole board

John Collyer is shown at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Robert Short/CBC)

After five months in jail, a former Bridgewater police chief convicted of sexually exploiting a teenage girl will be released on parole.

The Parole Board of Canada has decided to grant John Collyer full parole when his eligibility date arrives, which is on Aug. 3. 

Their decision was made on July 17 and released Friday.

In early March, Collyer was handed a provincial 15-month sentence for sexual exploitation involving a teenage girl who was almost 17 at the time, and accused him of assaulting her during a drive together in May 2016. Her identity is protected by a publication ban.

Collyer was off duty at the time of the incident. He was put on administrative leave when the allegations first emerged and then suspended as police chief after he was charged.

Since the board did not receive any written documents from Collyer or anyone else on his behalf, the decision was made on existing file information.

In their decision, the board considered victim impact statements provided to the court by the victim, which describe "the enormous negative impact that your actions have had upon the victim and her family."

The board also said Collyer has no prior criminal history and was in the community on an undertaking "for a considerable period of time" without issue. 

"The board believes these to be mitigating to your risk to reoffend but the nature of your current offence is serious," the decision said.

Alcohol abuse and job stress led Collyer to 'cross the line': board

The decision said Collyer had a positive upbringing "free from abuse of any kind" but he has experienced difficulties with alcohol. 

Drinking in excess after work became a normal way to cope with the stressors of his policing job, the decision said. He also used alcohol to "self-medicate anxiety and stress," and Collyer stated he would send messages to the victim when he was drinking heavily. 

After his arrest, Collyer attended psychological counselling to help him deal with his alcohol abuse issues as well as helping to manage his anxiety.

Early in his sentence, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) identified personal and emotional issues and substance abuse as factors contributing to his criminality.

"The stress of your job combined with excessive alcohol abuse allowed you to cross the line in terms of your relationship with the young victim," they wrote.

Board says Collyer doesn't present 'undue risk' to society

Collyer's level of accountability is rated as medium, while his motivation and reintegration potential are rated as high. 

The board is of the view that Collyer will not present an "undue risk to society," and his release contributes to the protection of society by facilitating his reintegration as a law-abiding citizen.

He has been unable to complete any programming due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while in jail, but was employed doing lawn maintenance. The board said Collyer is believed to be engaged in his correctional plan and accepts responsibility for his actions. 

They said that "incarceration has served as a deterrent to any future offending," and concluded Collyer made "observable and measurable change" which mitigates his risk to reoffend.

Collyer hopes to return to the employment he had before his incarceration, but understands that the ongoing pandemic may prevent this. A referral for mental health and addictions services is also available, "should it be required."

A spokesperson for the Town of Bridgewater said Collyer will not be returning to the police force, and that the reference to employment in parole records likely refers to another line of work he'd taken up before being incarcerated.

Conditions imposed by parole board

He is under specific conditions while on parole, including not to consume, purchase or possess alcohol since the substance "contributed to your cognitive distortions to allow you to cross the line with a young female" and any use could elevate his risk to reoffend. 

The victim of Collyer's sexual offending "has suffered greatly at your hand" and any contact with her could elevate his risk to reoffend, so he can have no contact with the victim or her family.

Collyer can also not be in the presence of any girls under 18 unless he is accompanied by an adult who knows his criminal history and has been approved in writing; and not to have any employment, or volunteer, in a role that involves being in a position of trust or authority toward anyone under 18.

The specific location where Collyer will live while on parole was redacted, but the decision said it would be a "return" to those who "continue to offer you support."

Police in Collyer's release destination "expressed concerns with an early release," the decision noted, but they do not oppose his release "if your risk is determined to be manageable and are supportive of recommended conditions."

Collyer was also sentenced to one year of probation after his sentence ends on June 3, 2021. 

He also had to provide a DNA sample and be on a national sex offender registry for 20 years.

Clarifications

  • Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the victim was 17. In fact, she was 16 and approaching her 17th birthday.
    Jul 25, 2020 10:12 AM AT

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