PICTOU, N.S. - A former Nova Scotia teacher who sexually abused two teenage male students issued a public apology Thursday, saying her deceitful actions betrayed their trust and caused pain and trauma for their families.
Carolyn Amy Hood of Stellarton, N.S., read from a statement during her sentencing hearing in Pictou provincial court, saying her "horrible decisions" were motivated by mental illness.
"I truly believe in my heart that without the onset of bipolar disorder, none of these events would have ever occurred," she told the judge.
"I want to reiterate my deep and immeasurable remorse for my actions that led to these charges and the lasting effects they have had on (the victims') lives as well as their families. It is something I will feel regret for every day for the rest of my life."
Hood, 40, was found guilty in April of sexual interference, sexual exploitation and two counts of luring minors over the Internet for a sexual purpose.
The charges stem from offences in 2013 involving two of her former students at Thorburn Consolidated School, who were 15 and 17 at the time.
The former Grade 6 teacher had previously taught both boys when they were in that grade.
She was charged with six offences in January 2014, but one count each of sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching were later dismissed.
"I am sickened that I have hurt so many people through this experience," Hood told the judge.
"There is not an hour that goes by when I am not thinking about the impact this has had on both the victims and their families' lives. It consumes me ... As a parent of three young children myself, I can only begin to imagine the hatred and resentment their families feel."
Earlier in the trial, defence lawyer Joel Pink argued that his client — diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 — should be declared not criminally responsible for her actions due to mental illness, but Judge Del Atwood rejected that argument.
In her statement, Hood said she is taking medication and attending psychiatric sessions to deal with her mental illness.
During Thursday's hearing, Pink argued that the mandatory minimum sentence for each charge — one year in jail — represented a violation of the Constitution because such a long sentence for a mentally ill person would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. He suggested the proper range of sentencing should be between three and nine months.
However, Crown prosecutor Bill Gorman said the judge should impose a four-year prison term, given the fact that the victims were under 18 and Hood had abused her position of trust.
"You had a teacher entrusted with looking after and providing for the care and education of students, and she chose to exploit that position," Gorman said outside court.
"She cultivated a relationship with a couple of her students, and she acted on her impulses. And in acting on her impulses, she furthered her own sexual gratification."
Hood is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 14.