Nova Scotia

Sydney Mines high school teacher sentenced to 2 years for sex with student

A former teacher at Memorial High School has been sentenced to two years behind bars after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation of a youth.

Lawrence Summerell, 53, taught at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines

Lawrence Summerell follows his lawyer, Joel Pink, into court in Sydney, N.S., on April 30, 2019. (George Mortimer/CBC)

A former teacher at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines, N.S., has been sentenced to two years behind bars for having sex with a student.

Lawrence Robert Summerell, 53, of Reserve Mines, N.S., pleaded guilty in January to one count of sexual exploitation of a youth.

When he was arrested in September 2018, he was initially charged with five offences, including child luring, sexual exploitation and sexual assault. He was subsequently charged with an additional count of child exploitation and one of possessing child pornography.

Those charges were withdrawn when he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation. 

At his sentencing hearing today in provincial court in Sydney, the court heard that Summerell met the student at Memorial High School in 2016.

She was 16 when they met, and 17 when they began a relationship.

The two had sex twice, once in Summerell's office at school, and another time at his house.

The girl, who is now 19, sobbed as she read a victim impact statement for the court.

She said she quit school because she did not want to run into Summerell.

She told the court that she later became addicted to cocaine, attempted suicide and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said she continues to be ashamed and embarrassed by what happened, and still hears his voice saying "this is our little secret."

The two-year sentence was a joint recommendation from the Crown and defense.

Crown attorney Steve Melnick read from Summerell's pre-sentence report at the hearing.

The report quoted Summerell as saying he didn't think he had done anything wrong, as he wasn't married at the time and an opportunity "presented itself."  He went on to say he should have known better.

Summerell's lawyer, Joel Pink, told reporters afterwards his client is remorseful and blames himself for what happened.

Pink said the sentence sends a strong message that teachers cannot have any type of a sexual relationship with a student. 

Justice Diane McGrath called Summerell's crime "reprehensible" as he was in a position of trust and responsibility.

Summerell has surrendered his Nova Scotia teaching licence and is no longer employed by the Cape Breton Victoria Regional Centre for Education.

With files from the CBC's George Mortimer and Norma Jean MacPhee