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Canada

Ex-cop gets five months for groping two women

A former Toronto Police sergeant who groped two women inside his police cruiser was sentenced Wednesday to five months in jail.

Justice Philip Downes said Christopher Heard committed “a serious breach of trust” by molesting the people he was being paid to serve and protect. His crimes tarnished the former officer’s otherwise “exemplary” 29-year career with Toronto’s force.

Downes found Heard, 48, guilty of two counts of sexual assault for “victimizing two young women” under the ruse of offering each one a lift home from the entertainment district in the fall of 2015.

He touched them over their clothing in the crotch area.

But the judge said it’s unfair to conclude that “these incidents define him as a person,” because Heard was commended on his job, loved and respected by colleagues, family,  friends and neighbours.

Downes said he wanted to achieve the right balance of a harsh jail sentence that deters and denounces this misconduct but also reflects “the principles of balance and restraint.”

Heard, who resigned from Toronto Police last month, won’t appeal the sentence or his conviction because he wanted to get on with his life and immediately start serving his penal sentence, said his lawyer Gary Clewley.

While the defence urged a four-month jail sentence, Crown attorney Peter Scrutton argued nine months was appropriate, highlighting the officer’s “egregious breach” of trust as both victims took the ride from Heard because they thought they could trust a cop.

“It is clear from their evidence that neither (victim) would have accepted a ride from some random stranger,” Scrutton said.

“As one victim said, ‘What better ride to take than from an officer’s car,” added  Scrutton. “‘He’s a  cop so I trusted him.’”

Heard was notified he was being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit after the first assault, but nonetheless committed the second crime, said Scrutton.

“That brazenness has to be relevant,” said Scrutton.

Both women, whose identities are covered by a publication ban, do not know each other and provided almost identical accounts.

In victim impact statements, both described becoming fearful around police.

“I now felt like a target for retribution,” wrote one victim. “I don’t think Sgt. Heard perceives the gravity of his actions and the cost to (the Toronto Police Service) of this broken trust.”

Heard, a married father of three, testified and denied the allegations. He was suspended with pay for four years.

spazzano@postmedia.com

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