Former Alberni teacher loses sex charge appeal

The BC Court of Appeal has denied the appeal of former teacher Gary Semchuck, who was convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting a student.

A B.C. Court of Appeal justice panel has denied the appeal of a former Port Alberni teacher who was convicted of sexually assaulting a former student.

In July 2011, Gary Nicholas Semchuk, 59, was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor female in Ucluelet during the 1986-87 school year. He originally faced sex charges involving five other students but was convicted of sexually assaulting one.

The girl was struggling for breath after competing in a two-kilometre run. Semchuk, who was the track coach, stood behind her and rubbed her ribcage, arms, shoulders and chest. The girl later testified that he rubbed her breasts with both hands.

According to court documents, Semchuk filed an appeal on the grounds that the trial judge failed to consider all of the circumstances when she concluded that the contact was sexual in nature and that the the trial judge misapprehended the evidence.

The three-member panel disagreed with Semchuk. A reasonable observer would likely conclude that a teacher simply assisting a distressed child is not sexual in nature. But that wasn’t the case here, Justice Bennet noted.

“On the evidence before me, I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the touching was sexual in nature and violated [the student’s] sexual integrity,” Bennet noted. “I am also satisfied that the touching was intended.”

Justice Groberman and Justice Mackenzie concurred and the appeal was dismissed.

In October 2011, Semchuk was sentenced to two years’ probation plus a host of conditions for one count of sexual assault.

The probation conditions include no contact with underage witnesses involved in the case, no contact with females under age 16, and not to be near daycares, public parks or swimming areas.

Semchuk – who no longer lives in the Alberni Valley – was also to attend counselling, take sex offender treatment and will be registered as a sex offender for the next 20 years.

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