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Hay River man launches appeal over sexual assault conviction

A Hay River man found guilty of sexually assaulting a girl is to appeal against his conviction.

Michael St John, adjudged to have sexually assaulted and interfered with the girl while she was aged between five and 14, faced three years in prison following the initial verdict in June.

However, St John’s lawyer – Peter Harte – confirmed to Moose FM on Wednesday that his client will appeal.

In Harte’s view, the trial judge erred as the court heard testimony from the young witness. He wants the verdict and sentence to be overturned.

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The appeal will focus on the placing of a screen during the girl’s testimony. Witnesses aged under 18 have the right to testify behind a screen, but Harte contends that the judge had the screen placed around St John – not the witness.

Harte believes the judge acted outside her powers in effectively screening the accused rather than the witness, which he argues singled out his client and denied St John a fair trial.

St John was formerly a francophone school board trustee and swim coach in the town.

A date for his appeal has yet to be confirmed.


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