The Standard (St. Catharine’s, Ontario)
03 May 2011
By Peter Downs, Standard Staff
The reasons the men were brought together in the same courtroom Monday are identical.
A male teacher whom they trusted preyed on them when they were just kids, 12 or 13 years old.
Back then, the teacher was a guidance counsellor and also taught sex education.
But the extracurricular sexual activities he guided his victims into was far from part of the school curriculum.
And 40 years later, the teacher’s victims testified Monday their lives remain in ruins from their former abuser’s sex crimes.
“What was taken from me was my childhood innocence,” one of the victims told St. Catharines court Monday.
“My faith was taken from me. It was replaced by fear.”
Minutes later, a judge found retired teacher Wayne Clark Thompson, 72, of Niagara Falls guilty of indecently assaulting five male students from a Smithville school nearly 40 years ago.
The charges all stem from the years 1971 to 1974 when Thompson was a teacher, guidance counsellor and vice-principal at College Street School. The male victims were in Grades 7 and 8 when they were sexually abused by Thompson. The abuse primarily occurred in Thompson’s private office at the school and on school trips to Quebec, court heard Monday morning.
In a rare legal move, Thompson pleaded not guilty to five counts of indecent assault, but conceded the Crown had enough evidence to prove its case against him beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defence lawyer Ken Byers told court Thompson would not oppose a statement of facts presented by the Crown and also wouldn’t oppose a finding of guilt on the charges.
Judge Joseph Nadel reasoned Thompson adopted the unusual defence in an attempt to retain “a smidgen” of personal dignity. He found him guilty on all five charges.
Thompson’s victims — all now middle-aged men — sat in the body of the court, some of them weeping, as their frail-looking former teacher sat in front of them in the prisoner’s dock.
Assistant Crown attorney Bob Mahler told court the allegations against Thompson followed a similar pattern.
Mahler said Thompson brought each of the five complainants individually into his private office near the school’s gym, where he got them talking about sex — sometimes under the guise of sexual education — before coercing them into sexual activity.
Thompson fondled and groped two of the boys and performed oral sex on the other three, Mahler said. He also convinced one of the boys to have sex with his girlfriend while he watched on at least three or four occasions, he said.
Thompson’s lawyer didn’t contest any of the details presented by the Crown.
Three of the men abused by Thompson told court the dark secret they kept hidden for decades has taken an enormous toll on their mental and physical health.
In a victim impact statement read into the record by Mahler, one of the men said he has been unable to work because he suffers post-traumatic stress syndrome, nightmares and depression.
“Why? Because I had a secret I couldn’t reveal for close to 40 years,” he wrote.
“Long ago, I put my faith in the education system and my educator and they let me down.”
Another victim said he has used drugs and alcohol excessively to cloud his memories.
“The last 38 years, I’ve felt like I was living with my eyes closed,” he said in a statement read by Mahler.
“He not only stole my innocence, but he took away my passion for life.”
Thompson was ordered to return to St. Catharines court June 30 for sentencing.