The Police Chief of a small Nova Scotia town has been charged with the sexual assault and exploitation of a 17-year-old girl.
The charges stem from two incidents last summer that are alleged to have happened in Bridgewater, a small community of 8,000 about an hour’s drive from Halifax. Currently the town is reeling from the unrelated case of six young men who pled guilty in March to sharing about 60 nude photos of 20 teenage girls in a Dropbox account without their consent.
“Early last August I received information from the RCMP about allegations of certain conduct being made against Chief Collyer.”
53-year-old Police Chief John Collyer is charged with one count of sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation of the teenager. The incidents are alleged to have happened between April 1 and July 31, 2016. The Bridgewater Police Commission placed Collyer on paid leave last August.
Under the Criminal Code, sexual assault is committed if someone intentionally applies force against a person without their consent in a sexual context. Sexual exploitation is committed if a person in a position of trust or authority touches a young person for a sexual purpose, or invites a young person to touch them.
“Early last August I received information from the RCMP about allegations of certain conduct being made against Chief Collyer,” Serious Incident Response Team director Ron MacDonald told VICE News. “The allegations came from an individual close to the complainant, and so it was passed along to the RCMP.”
The investigation took longer than expected because the SIRT had to take legal steps to obtain evidence from a third party, which it received last week. MacDonald wouldn’t say whether the third party might have been a company in possession of online information, saying he didn’t want to compromise Collyer’s right to a fair trial.
The SIRT says it interviewed four police witnesses and nine civilians during its investigation. The agency was also investigating Collyer for obstruction of justice, but there wasn’t enough evidence to support that charge, MacDonald said.
“That is a higher percentage than any other agency in the country.”
Police agencies have an obligation to report incidents to the SIRT but in this case, MacDonald said, “this incident wasn’t known to anyone from Bridgewater Police.”
Since Nova Scotia’s SIRT first opened five years ago as the only agency tasked with investigating alleged sexual assaults by police, MacDonald says the agency has investigated around 10 police officers for sexual assault and laid charges against two of those. That doesn’t include the latest charge against Collyer.
“Our total number of investigations in that first five year period was 136, and of those, 23 of those files led to charges against police officers,” MacDonald said. “That is a higher percentage than any other agency in the country.”
MacDonald said the teenager is receiving “a variety of care suited to her particular needs” as a result of the alleged incidents.
Collyer, who has served as chief for the last five years and has been with the service since 1990, will appear in Bridgewater Provincial Court on June 14.