Ex-Toronto police sergeant gets 5-month jail sentence for sex assault

Christopher Heard, the ex-Toronto police sergeant found guilty of two counts of sexual assault, has been sentenced to five months in jail.

Heard was convicted following two incidents where he picked up women in his marked police car before fondling them over their clothes as he drove them to their homes.

Crown prosecutor Peter Scrutton had asked for a nine-month jail sentence. He noted that Heard would likely serve his time in protective custody, which is "harder time" than is normally served because he is a former police officer.

Heard's lawyer Gary Clewley asked for a four-month sentence. He told court the trial has brought Heard much "shame and humiliation" and in a "painful decision" he resigned as a police officer last month.

"Mr. Heard was only able to commit these offences because of his position of authority and the trust that the community and these women in particular had for police officers," Scrutton said.

"Neither [woman] would have accepted a ride from some random stranger in the car. It was the markings on the car, and Sgt. Heard's uniform that enabled them to accept that ride ... Both of them assumed they would be safe."

Both women provided victim impact statements during the trial. They described the stress of reporting a sexual assault committed by a police officer. 

Impact on the victims

One victim said she feared retribution. "I had troubles sleeping and was nervous driving when every police officer I passed made me think I was going to lose my licence," she said in a victim impact statement.

"I couldn't help but think that is was a police officer with the resources to know where I live, the car I drive, and the camaraderie of his fellow officers to make my life difficult."

Martin Trainor/CBC

She said describing the "intimate details" of what happened in front of Heard and his family and friends in court was "intimidating, upsetting and embarrassing."

The second woman described similar trauma after coming forward.

"Up until the recent verdict every time a cop cruiser is around, it left a mental scar knowing I can't trust anyone and it has made it difficult for me to socialize with anyone other than my family."

Justice Philip Downes said Heard's conduct amounts to "a serious breach of the trust placed in him by the people he was employed to serve and protect."

No appeal expected

Clewley drew attention to Heard's "distinguished career" as a police officer where he served for 29 years without a single act of misconduct.

Sketch by Pam Davies

He told told the judge Heard has been through two trials and an appeal and is ready to serve his jail sentence. Heard is also suffering major health issues, Clewley said.

"During this saga he contracted cancer. In July 2017 he had a cancerous kidney removed," he said.

Clewley said his client is 48 years old, unlikely to re-offend, and is not a threat to the community. Heard will not appeal the judgment, Clewly said. 

"He wants to move on with his life ... When you sentence him and he serves it this matter is over."