January 03, 2014 - 8:53 AM
VERNON - A number of high profile court cases unfolded in the Vernon courthouse this year. Some ended with cries of joy, others with handcuffs.
In July, former Vernon teacher and vice-principal Deborah Ashton was acquitted of perjury charges in relation to an earlier sexual assault trial involving one of her students. All told, Ashton had been in the justice system for five years and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her legal defense. She now lives in the Lower Mainland teaching writing classes for adults. She will likely never set foot in a public school classroom again. Despite being found not guilty, she says her reputation as a teacher has been tarnished.
In August, a 94-year-old man was charged with the murder of his roommate at a dementia care home in Vernon Jubilee Hospital. He was sent to a high security psychiatric ward in Kamloops while lawyers waded though the murky waters of his case. Three months later, the Crown dropped its charges against Furman, stating there’s no public interest in prosecuting a senior with advanced dementia for a crime he doesn’t even remember committing. The incident sparked questions not only about how the justice system deals with the mentally ill, but also about the state of residential care in B.C.
The Regional District of North Okanagan was also in court this year on a series of water contamination charges relating to a 2010 incident at Antwerp Springs. The tainted water led to a do not drink advisory for approximately 1,800 residents, and the trial judge found the district criminally responsible. Sentencing has been delayed twice since the September verdict, once because the judge was “seeing red” over comments made by the district, and the second time due to scheduling conflicts.
A number of child pornography cases went before the courts this year. Connor Dee, 28, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on 13 charges involving sexual interference, luring, and child pornography. He was handed 42 months in prison. His punishment brought justice to the five victims who came forward against him—girls, who like Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, were bullied, entrapped and violated. The Dee case spurred a fueled discussion among victim’s rights groups on how such perpetrators are punished by the criminal justice system.
Two other men have been in court on similar matters. David Willerth, 39, recently pleaded guilty to two of 19 luring and child pornography charges. His court proceedings are ongoing. Meanwhile, Ryan Hampton, a Vernon cop, has been charged with possession of child pornography. His legal matters are ongoing.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014