Nova Scotia

Sydney teacher's sex assault trial begins

The trial of a former Cape Breton school teacher charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement began in a Sydney courtroom Monday.

The trial of a former Cape Breton school teacher charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement began in a Sydney courtroom Monday.

Michel Vienneau, 43, of Howie Centre, is accused of attacking a 32-year-old woman last October at Centre Scolaire Étoile de l'Acadie in Sydney where he taught math and science.

At trial Monday, a Cape Breton Regional Police officer testified that he went to the school at around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 because a fire alarm had been activated.

Const. A.J. MacIsaac told the court that when he arrived, he saw a woman standing behind a nearby building. MacIsaac said the woman told him that she had been sexually assaulted in the school and had pulled the fire alarm in order to escape.

 A second officer testified that he spoke to a man who called police later that evening.

Const. Jack Burke said the man he spoke to was Vienneau, who told him he wanted to make a statement because he had befriended a woman who turned out to have a drug problem.

The officer testified that Vienneau told him that the woman demanded money from him and threatened to have her boyfriend beat him up.

He said Vienneau did not mention any incident at the school, nor did he ask to lay charges against the woman.

The alleged victim testified that she is addicted to prescription drugs and sometimes had sex with men to get money. She said Vienneau paid her for sex a few times.

The woman testified that on Oct. 23, 2010, Vienneau picked her up and took her to the school. She said when he admitted he didn't have any money, she refused to have sex.

The woman testified that Vienneau then pulled her into a classroom with children toys and blue mats on the floor. She said he tried to have sex with her but she got away and pulled a fire alarm. There was no one else in the school at the time.

In a  video of Vienneau's police statement, he began by telling police he was meeting with the woman to help her escape a violent drug-addicted boyfriend. In his statement to police, Vienneau first insisted he was only seeing the woman to help her overcome her drug addiction problems. He said they  went to the school to pick up something he had forgotten.

But, after police suggested they had evidence that he had been using prostitutes for years, Vienneau admitted he took her to the school, planning to have sex with her. He insisted it was consensual sex.

Crown attorney Shane Russell said the fact the woman has been a sex worker cannot be used to discredit her story.

"Questioning regarding prior sexual history, you cannot ask those questions for two very important purposes. You cannot ask that question to imply that the victim is less worthy of belief or more likely to have consented as well," he said.

Vienneau has been suspended from his teaching job.