Nova Scotia

Former Bridgewater police chief denies sexually assaulting teen

The former Bridgewater, N.S., police chief accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl took the stand Tuesday at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater.

WARNING: This story contains graphic content describing an alleged sexual assault

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

The former Bridgewater, N.S., police chief accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl took the stand Tuesday at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater.

John Collyer faces charges of sexual assault and sexual exploitation in relation to a complainant who was 17 at the time of the alleged 2016 assault. The woman is now 20 and cannot be identified due to a publication ban.

Collyer has pleaded not guilty.

In July, the complainant told the court she was a passenger in Collyer's car when he touched her inappropriately.

The Crown's case has centred on testimony from the complainant and on inappropriate sexual Facebook messages between Collyer and the teenager, most of which were deleted after the complainant's mother discovered them and took screenshots.

David Bright is representing John Collyer. (Robert Short/CBC)

Collyer spent part of the morning telling the court about how he came to know the complainant and her family, and acknowledged sending the messages sometime in March 2016.

"I thought they were funny at the time, and unfortunately I was drinking at the time. When I'm drinking, my filter is gone," Collyer said.

He rejected the idea he is an alcoholic, but acknowledged to his lawyer, David Bright, he is a "problem drinker" and uses alcohol to self-medicate.

Collyer said when he is drinking, he sometimes uses sexual innuendo with family, friends and people he is comfortable with. He said that soon after sending the messages, he realized he should not have sent them to the teenage girl.

"Looking at it in the sober light of day, it wasn't funny, it was inappropriate. And that's why it got deleted," he said.

On Tuesday, Crown lawyer Roland Levesque read many of the messages in court that Collyer sent to the complainant. (Robert Short/CBC)

Collyer said he deleted the messages long before the SIRT investigation started, and that he was embarrassed and ashamed about them.

Collyer was suspended in May 2017 after he was charged by SIRT, and officially removed from the Bridgewater Police Service payroll on Aug. 11, 2018.

He described the car ride on the day of the alleged sexual assault. His account of the day was similar to the complainant's, with the exception that he denied touching her vagina as she alleged. 

Under cross-examination, Crown attorney Roland Levesque read Collyer many of the Facebook messages he wrote to the complainant and questioned him on why he sent them and what they meant. Some of the messages included statements like:

  • "You are hot."
  • "Makes me want to come over there and steal u away."
  • "Hanging out in your room? If I was alone, I would get in trouble."
  • "Apparently you give awesome foot rubs! Guess I will never know."

Collyer admitted that some of the messages were sexual innuendo, but said he was never interested in the complainant in a sexual manner, and that she was a child.

Collyer said he did not recall what some of the messages were about as he had deleted them from his account soon after sending them.

"Saying something and doing something is totally different," he told Levesque.

John and Sheri Collyer at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater, N.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Robert Short/CBC)

Outside court, Levesque explained to reporters the value the Crown sees in the messages. 

"My response is if you're saying something, it indicates a state of mind," he said. "And if you have a certain state of mind, that can inevitably lead to you putting into action your thoughts."

Closing arguments will begin Wednesday morning.