Toronto police sergeant found guilty of sexual assault at re-trial
Judge Phil Downes handed down his decision Thursday, following a re-trial in June
Toronto police Sgt. Christopher Heard has been found guilty of two counts of sexual assault in connection with two incidents where he picked up women in his marked police car before fondling them as he drove them to their homes.
Justice Philip Downes handed down his decision Thursday following a re-trial conducted in June. Last October, a different judge, Justice Tamarin Dunnet, ordered the new trial after the Crown appealed a lower court decision that acquitted Heard.
The Crown alleged Heard picked up two women from the Entertainment District on separate occasions in the fall of 2015 and sexually assaulted them in his marked cruiser. The first woman said she was assaulted by Heard on Sept. 25. The second woman came forward with a similar story about an incident on Nov. 1.
The Crown alleged that Heard fondled both women's inner upper thighs while they were in his cruiser. They both said they accepted his offer for a ride home because he was a police officer.
Heard always denied the allegations, but admitted he drove the women home.
In his ruling, Downes said Heard considers their allegations "false, contrived, or imagined, and motivated by a dislike of the police."
The judge rejected that argument.
"I do not accept the defence position that [the two women] took advantage of being in a police car to falsely accuse Sgt. Heard of sexual assault as a means of vindicating their prior grievances with police," Downes said.
"To the contrary, I find that these two women's complaints were made as a result of being sexually assaulted by Sgt. Heard."
During its appeal of the original verdict, the Crown listed a number of facts it argued showed Heard demonstrated a similar pattern of behaviour in both cases, including:
- The officer targeted women who appeared to be alone and offered them a ride home.
- Both women accepted the offer because Heard was a uniformed police officer and drove a marked vehicle.
- Both women sat in the front seat.
- Heard did not turn on the in-car camera or audio system in either incident.
- He engaged in unwanted sexual touching with both women until he was rebuffed.
Heard admitted he did not turn on the in-car camera, which is against police protocols, but denied he engaged in unwanted sexual touching of either woman.
In his decision issued Thursday, Downes said he rejected Heard's evidence, saying he "was not a credible witness."
Heard looked straight at Downes as he read out the verdict in court Thursday morning. Afterward, Heard appeared glassy-eyed as his supporters gathered around him.
Heard has been on paid leave from the force. He is set to be sentenced on Dec. 4.
With files from Jasmin Seputis