Thursday, February 19, 2009

Former teacher sentenced to forty five days on sex charges

It was a shocking case that took over a year to work its way through the justice system, but Monday brought to an end the trial for former Prince Rupert teacher Dana Monteith, who was sentenced to 45 days in jail for his crimes that rocked the community last year.

Monteith who has since left the province, was also provided with a number of conditions that must be met in addition to his time to serve.
The final outcome of the case appears to be a resolution that seemed to satisfy the Crown, and observers from both the School District and the Teacher's union who were in attendance at Monday's sentencing hearing.

The Tuesday Daily News outlined the details of the proceedings.

Ex-teacher pleads guilty to sexual charges
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Pages one and two

Former Prince Rupert high school teacher Dana Monteith was sentenced to 45 days in jail in Prince Rupert Supreme Court yesterday.

More than a year after Dana Allison Monteith, 38, was charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a young person, the former Charles Hays Secondary School science teacher pleaded guilty to one count and was taken into custody just after noon. The other two counts were stayed.

"It's not unusual to have more than one count [against an accused person] and proceed on one," said Deputy Provincial Crown Counsel Andy MacDonell.

"The Crown was initially satisfied that there was a substantial likelihood of conviction on all three counts. He made the decision to plead guilty to count two, and the Crown was satisfied that a plea to that count was a proper resolution to the case."

A preliminary hearing for the case took place in early November 2008, where the court heard testimony from young female victims.

The court had heard that the females, at least one of whom was a student of Monteith's and as young as 15, had visited his Cormorant home beginning in the autumn of 2005, and continued to visit during the next two years. They delivered testimony that before and during visits to his apartment they had consumed alcohol, as did Monteith, and that on several occasions inappropriate touching had occurred.

A joint order from both Crown Counsel and the defence sought the minimum sentence of 45 days for the guilty plea, as well as a probation order of one year with conditions of reporting to a probation officer, both of which were upheld by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Crawford. Optional conditions sought in the joint order were also approved by Justice Crawford, including no contact with any of the three alleged victims.

Monteith is also prohibited from attending public parks, playgrounds, schools, or any other place where people under the age of 16 can reasonably be expected to be present. The only exception will be to attend a community centre or public health facility with the written permission of his probation officer.

He is also restricted from ever seeking or obtaining employment in a capacity that involves the trust or authority of a person under 16 years of age.

Upon his release from Prince George Regional Correctional Centre, Monteith will be required to register as a sex offender, and provide DNA samples for the National DNA Data Bank.
Monteith's defence lawyer David Mardiros explained that since moving to Prince Rupert from his hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Monteith had suffered from "social isolation," and his increasing reliance on the consumption of alcohol led to a "downward spiral," ultimately ending in the behaviour he pleaded guilt to.

Mardiros also explained that since being charged, Monteith had been living back in Fredericton with his parents and working for their automotive business. He plans on relocating permanently to his hometown upon his release, and will have the support of his family in maintaining sobriety, as they expressed in character references Justice Crawford cited.

After calling a brief recess to contemplate the case, Justice Crawford reconvened court at noon and delivered the sentence of 45 days to Monteith, along with all of the conditions requested.
He stated that the charges fell "at the low end of sexual touching cases," and said he was satisfied that the acceptance of responsibility on behalf of Monteith had been met.

"There is a huge burden of trust on teachers, and they have to be vigilant of that trust. It's not an easy task in these days of increasing informality," said Justice Crawford.

"The effects have been devastating for the community and those parties involved. His Criminal Code record will stigmatize him, and his embarrassment will be never ending."

Prince Rupert District Teachers' Union President Gabrielle Bureau was in attendance at the ruling alongside a British Columbia Teachers' Federation lawyer, and said that they were satisfied due process had been followed with respect to the case.

School District 52 Superintendent of Schools Eric Mercer was also present, and felt the sentence and conditions dealt to Monteith were appropriate.

"First, for the fact he plead guilty and didn't take the girls and their families through an extended trial period," said Mercer. "He's given up his career, he'll be registered as a sex offender and have his DNA on record. These are all huge things. I also found it interesting that Justice Crawford addressed the increasing informality between teachers and students, the use of first names, and the way that some teachers are becoming 'friends' with their students. As I've maintained and made clear to our staff, you have to keep that professional distance with students."

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