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Ex-Bridgewater police chief’s friendship with teen respectful, his wife testifies


Former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer is accused of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a 17-year-old girl in 2016. - Josh Healey
Former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer is accused of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a 17-year-old girl in 2016. - Josh Healey
BRIDGEWATER, N.S. —

The sexual assault trial of former Bridgewater police chief John Collyer resumed on Monday as his wife, Sheri, testified as the first defence witness at Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Judge Mona Lynch also heard the last of the Crown’s evidence with the testimony of adolescent and child psychiatrist Dr. Jean Stephanie Casey, who had previously met and assessed the complainant for mental health illnesses.

Collyer lost his job after allegations that he sexually assaulted and sexually exploited a then 17-year-old girl in 2016.

The complainant previously testified that Collyer stuck his fingers into her vagina while driving in his sports car; he has pleaded not guilty.

Casey said that the young woman was referred to her as a patient in 2015.

Casey testified that the then 16-year-old was afflicted by ADHD, OCD, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and complex trauma. She also said, despite the complainant’s age, she had the mental maturity of a child between the ages of 10 and 12.

Due to her symptoms, said Casey, the young woman had a hard time focusing, accepting responsibility or listening to authority figures. The complainant was prescribed medications to help with her illnesses.

Talking to reporters outside court, Crown attorney Roland Levesque said it was important to establish the teenage girl’s vulnerability given her mental state.

“We certainly didn’t want the court to speculate on how a person could react suffering from certain challenges,” he said. “I think the judge is now able to properly assess the evidence that was given by the complainant.”

During his cross examination, defence lawyer David Bright asked several questions about the complainant’s marijuana use and concerns about lying.

Casey responded by saying any marijuana use was not recommended in developing adolescent brains and that most of her patients lie in some form or another.

Bright then had the chance to present his own witnesses, beginning with Sheri Collyer.

She testified that she and Collyer had been married 33 years and were charitable figures in the community.

She said she and her husband met the complainant while trying to help the family; they eventually all became good friends and met up on a weekly basis.

Overall, Sheri described her husband’s interactions with the complainant as respectful but that she was dismayed when the young woman’s mother contacted her about inappropriate messages sent from Collyer’s phone.

The court previously heard that over 600 messages were sent between Collyer and the young woman.

Sheri testified that she thought the messages were inappropriate and confronted her husband about them. She said they were sent while Collyer was drinking, which he had previously called a “piss poor excuse.”

He eventually sent an apology, which further angered her because he hadn’t consulted legal counsel first. The complainant also tried to contact her but Sheri said she didn’t respond.

During cross examination, Sheri said some messages could be construed as sexual but that she wasn’t worried about her husband’s relationship with the complainant.

Collyer is expected to take the stand on Tuesday.

Over the course of the trial, the court has also heard from the complainant’s doctor, friend and mother.

“The witnesses we called did a good job under very trying circumstances,” said Levesque when asked about his case.

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