The John Gray High School teacher charged with indecently assaulting three female students was found not guilty on Friday afternoon.
The verdicts on all three charges were unanimous.
He had been accused of touching one of the girls in her groin area and the other two on their breasts during a class session.
On Thursday the teacher had given evidence and denied there was any touching at all – not even by accident. He explained that on the day the indecent assaults were alleged to have occurred, he had set the students to work on their projects, while he sat at his desk to prepare a mock exam for another class.
He said he had to submit the mock exam, so it was his priority and he was not giving the class his full attention. Normally he walked around the class to check students’ progress. He said nobody called him over for help.
Asked why the students would lie about him, he said he did not know. He said he had reprimanded them, was stern with them and told them he would call their parents, which students did not like. He added that he did not call their parents or give detentions, but had threatened to do so.
Crown counsel Toyin Salako, in her closing speech to the jury, pointed out that the girls had made their complaints soon after the class; she asked if they really had time to put their heads together and make up these stories. She noted that one of the girls had been asked if the touching might have been accidental and she replied that she did not know. “If she wanted to get him in trouble, she would have said it was deliberate,” Ms. Salako asserted.
Defense attorney Steve McField reminded jurors of the standard of proof: they had to be sure of guilt and if they were not sure, they had to find the defendant not guilty. He expressed the opinion that the girls had set out to destroy a teacher they did not like.
He reminded them of the videotaped interviews with the girls in which they had been asked to demonstrate the alleged touching. In the first case, he said, he did not see the described area being touched. In the second case, he asked, “Can you be sure?” In the third case, he asked, “Would you convict a man on that?”
On Friday morning, Justice Michael Wood instructed the six men and one woman on the jury that they had to reach a verdict on each count separately, but they could use their decision on one when considering the others. Assault in the context of this case did not have to have any force involved; an unwanted touch or caress would be sufficient, he explained.
He told them there is no stereotype victim or alleged offender and indecent assaults can take place in almost any circumstances. He also told them to put aside any preconceived view of how anyone subjected to a sexual assault should react afterward or when giving evidence. Each person has his or her own way of coping, he pointed out.
He briefly reviewed the evidence. In the first case, the girl said she had gone over to the computer printer with her memory stick to print something. As she walked back to her seat, the teacher approached her and touched the side of her groin area. Two classmates gave evidence that they saw the touching.
The teacher in his evidence said no one printed anything that day, but computer records showed that something was printed about a minute before the class ended.
The other two girls who said they were touched described it as happening when the teacher came to their desks and was leaning over them from behind. One of them said she had asked for help and the teacher came over.
One of the girls had mentioned seeing pornography on the teacher’s computer screen. When she was questioned about it, it turned out that all she saw was a fading picture of a bed; there were no people. That did not sound pornographic, the judge remarked.
After the verdicts, Justice Wood thanked the jurors for the care and attention they had paid to the case.