CORNER BROOK — Lloyd Whitehorne, an elementary school teacher from Port aux Basques, has been found not guilty of two sex offences alleged to have taken place with a 13-year-old girl.
In her decision brought down in provincial court in Corner Brook Tuesday morning, Judge Catherine Allen-Westby said she believed the 41-year-old man did have inappropriate email and text message exchanges with the young girl in 2009 and had failed to do anything to discourage her from continuing their conversations.
However, Allen-Westby said the inconsistencies in the girl’s statements to police and her subsequent testimony at Whitehorne’s trial in early September cast a reasonable doubt about whether any inappropriate physical contact had taken place when the two were together.
The allegations against Whitehorne were that the two would arrange meetings during which they kissed and that Whitehorne had touched her sexually.
Whitehorne took the stand in his own defence and denied having ever touched the girl in a sexual manner. He did acknowledge that he had communication with her, but did not agree that he had sent or received all of the digital communications presented as evidence before the court.
In one of the communications Whitehorne acknowledged that he received, the girl said she was looking forward to “kissing (Whitehorne) all over.”
Crown attorney Mike Fox did ask Whitehorne why he never informed the girl’s family about any inappropriate conversations they may have had. Whitehorne said that he wanted to first ask the girl herself what she had meant by them.
The girl had been confronted by her mother after some of the messages were discovered in 2009, but the girl denied anything physical had happened. It wasn’t until 17 months after the discovery of the messages that the girl disclosed that there had been a physical relationship with Whitehorne.
Defence counsel Rosellen Sullivan argued that it had not been proven who exactly had been using the computer Whitehorne was alleged to have used when the questionable messages were communicated. She also said the credibility of the girl must be viewed cautiously by the court since she did deceive those closest to her for 17 months about the nature of the alleged relationship.
There were also inconsistencies, said Sullivan, about the number of physical encounters and the nature of the physical contact the girl alleged took place.
“I am unable to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Lloyd Whitehorne committed the two offences with which he is charged ... In assessing the credibility of the complainant, I found that her behaviour prior to the charges being laid causes me to question the veracity of her evidence,” decided Allen-Westby.
The judge’s analysis of the case did touch on the inappropriateness of the communication between Whitehorne and the girl and that there may have been times when they were alone together.
“I am not convinced that a sexual assault took place during those encounters,” said Allen-Westby. “Although I believe that the accused indulged in inappropriate communication with the complainant and did nothing to discourage what the court believes to have been her infatuation with him, I am unable to conclude that a criminal offence occurred here.”