A former Saskatchewan music teacher guilty of sexually assaulting students in the 1990s was sentenced to 609 days in prison.
A sentencing hearing for Gerard Loehr, 58, was held in Yorkton Provincial Court on April 16.
“This is a very egregious breach of trust,” said Judge Lloyd Stang when sentencing Loehr. “People in society put an enormous amount of trust in schools and teachers.”
Judge Stang also ordered Loehr to provide a DNA sample and register with the sex offender registry for life. Loehr was given a lifetime ban from seeking employment or volunteering with anyone under the age of 16. He was also given a 10 year firearms prohibition.
Judge Stang said aggravating factors include the age of the victims, the breach of trust, the devastating impacts on the victims, and the fact that there were multiple touches against multiple victims for years.
For mitigating factors, Judge Stang mentioned Loehr’s mental health as stated in a letter from his psychiatrist, which says Loehr now suffers from a major depressive disorder and anxiety. Other mitigating factors include Loehr’s lack of criminal record, the 17 letters of support from friends, colleagues and family, and the good he has done for music students over the years.
Crown Prosecutor Darren Grindle sought a two-year sentence and a DNA order. He said he didn’t seek a probation order after Loehr finishes his Saskatchewan prison sentence because, he said, “He is facing a lengthy sentence in Ontario.”
Defence lawyer Tom Campbell asked the court for a one-year prison sentence.
Loehr appeared in court in person and was taken into custody at the conclusion of today’s sentencing hearing.
Judge Stang imposed a publication ban against identifying any of the victims or any information that could identify them. This ban extends to people from the public posting on social media.
Victim impact statements
Two victims appeared in person in court and read victim impact statements.
“I have a question, ‘who did this to you Gerard, who taught you do this?” asked one victim who was 11 when the abuse began. “If you were a victim of sexual assault I’m sorry for that but I’m also a victim of sexual assault and I haven’t touched anyone else. That makes me a stronger and smarter person than you. That stops the cycle.
“I’m so thankful you can’t teach any more, you can’t hurt any more children and anyone can search your name on Google and see who you really are,” she added.
“You ruined my love of music. You manipulated a little child.”
The abuse also had a lasting impact on a victim who was 13 when it began.
She said the abuse made her question authority and she learned not to trust others.
“I learned not to trust from my teacher,” she said.
Loehr found guilty in 2020
During a July 2020 trial, five former students testified against Loehr. In November Loehr was found guilty on three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. Judge Stang found Loehr not guilty on four counts of sexual interference because the girls were 14 at the time and according to the law in the 90s, the age of consent was 14. The age has since been raised to 16.
Judge Stang also found Loehr not guilty on two counts of sexual assault because he had concerns about the reliability of the witness’ memory of the incidents.
“I believe she was touched by Mr. Loehr and those touches made her uncomfortable,” said Judge Stang, adding he wasn’t able to find Loehr guilty on those charges because the evidence and testimony of the witness must meet the highest standard.
One charge of sexual interference was dismissed in July.
Loehr arrested in 2020
Loehr was arrested in Ottawa on Feb. 17, 2020, and charged with five counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference. The court heard that the victims encountered Loehr in the 90s when he was a band and music teacher in Wynyard and Foam Lake schools for the Shamrock School Division.
The charges against Loehr were the result of an historic sexual assault investigation by Wynyard RCMP launched in 2019. A woman had contacted them to report an historic sexual assault and five others later came forward to police.
Loehr faces similar charges in Ontario
Loehr left Saskatchewan in 1996 and taught in Ottawa schools. In 2019 Ottawa Police charged him with 22 sexual assault and sexual interference offences against 11 students. Loehr was recently convicted on 13 of the counts against seven children. He will be sentenced on those charges in an Ontario court on April 29.
Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist