Jason Seymour case should not have proceeded

A resident of Port Hawkesbury who was facing sexual charges involving a female youth was found not guilty just before the holidays.

In Antigonish Provincial Court on Dec. 23, 46-year-old Jason Frank Seymour was acquitted by Judge Nicole Rovers of two charges of sexual assault, two charges of sexual interference, and one count of sexual exploitation.

Because Seymour’s accuser was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged incidents, she cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The alleged offences took place between May 17, 2021 and Sept. 1, 2021 in Port Hawkesbury.

In her decision, Rovers said she had “serious concerns about the credibility and reliability of the evidence” from the accuser, while the evidence provided by Seymour “was both reliable and credible and leaves me with reasonable doubt,” she said, noting that the Crown failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Before declaring Seymour not guilty on all counts, the judge noted that in delivering its decision, the court “is not relying on antiquated notions of how and when sexual assaults occur.” Rovers said these allegations of sexual assault “could absolutely occur in the presence of others,” and in front of surveillance cameras.

The Crown submitted that Seymour should have been convicted of a single count of sexual exploitation and one count of sexual assault, “and the rest could be judicially stayed.”

Rovers said the accuser told the court she was there “to get justice and to tell her story.”

In her verdict, Rovers said she did not consider testimony from two other young women who rebutted claims by the accuser that they were sexually assaulted by Seymour.

Rovers did consider that after leaving her place of work where the incidents were alleged to have taken place, the accuser reapplied for positions at the same business despite the fact that the accuser claimed to have a “well developed fear” of Seymour.

The accuser claimed she did not remember reapplying to that business, but the judge said “no evidence has been presented to assist me in understanding how such a decision would not be a memorable one.”

In assessing the credibility and reliability of the accuser, Rover said she did not “provide significant details about the specific occurrences.”

The judge found there were discrepancies between the testimony of the accuser to the Crown and the facts she confirmed during cross examination by the defence, noting “there appeared to be discrepancies between the evidence at trial and some information that was provided at a prior date and time.”

Rovers said the accuser “did not describe the incidents in a detailed way,” noting that “specific details of the how, when, and where, and with what were not elaborated on.”

As far as Seymour, the judge determined his testimony was reliable and credible, even matching with some of the information provided by his accuser. The judge said the defendant had no issues “with his ability to recall what he observed,” there were no issues “with his ability to communicate what he observed,” and his “evidence is compatible with other defence witnesses.”

After noting that Seymour was “in a position of authority” over the accused, Rovers said portions of his evidence were “troubling to the court,” particularly the hugs, the text messages, and repeated use of the term colleague when describing a teenage subordinate.

Cpl. Chris Marshall explained that on Jan. 23, 2022 Port Hawkesbury RCMP received a complaint “alleging that a man had sexually assaulted a female youth.”

Marshall said police gathered information, and on Feb. 14, they arrested Seymour, who was later released from custody on conditions.

On April 11, during a scheduled election and plea, the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Services confirmed that Seymour’s “defence withdrew” and his representation changed to Halifax-based lawyer Allan MacDonald, which was granted by Judge Laurel Halfpenny-MacQuarrie.

Seymour stood trial on Oct. 25, Nov. 2, and Nov. 15, PPS added.

While The Reporter received criticism for publishing Seymour’s name, and even doing stories on the case, it is the responsibility of community media to pursue stories of interest to the community, good and bad. The facts are that the defendant’s name was already available to any member public once the charges were read in court, and with rumours circulating around the community, that is precisely the time to get facts to the public.

Now that those facts have been made public and the verdict is in, it’s questionable whether this complaint should have proceeded beyond the investigative stage.

For one, there were no witnesses, no video, and no records of the accuser mentioning it to others introduced during the trail. The Crown’s case basically came down to the claims of the accuser, a discrepancy made larger by the judge’s inability to consider her testimony credible or reliable.

And despite the scarcity of proof, the RCMP chose to lay charges and the Crown then elected to pursue the case all the way to trial, even going so far as recommending to the judge that Seymour be found guilty on two counts.

While the case was arguably weak, it does not mean the alleged incident definitely did not occur; it just means there was insufficient proof to allow the judge to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hopefully, this case won’t discourage other victims from coming forward, and if anything good comes from it, perhaps future cases will be stronger to ensure justice is served.