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Retired UCC teacher guilty in sex case Add to ...

In what is likely a final chapter in the decades-long saga of sexual abuse at Toronto's prestigious Upper Canada College, a retired science instructor who was once honoured for his innovative teaching methods was convicted yesterday on two counts of sexual assault.

The charges against Lorne Cook stemmed in large part from simulated kidney-transplant exercises he devised for his adolescent students -- experiments that in 1993 helped him secure the Prime Minister's Award for Excellence, rewarding achievements in education.

Yesterday, Mr. Cook's career ended in disgrace.

Free on bail since his arrest in 2004 on charges of fondling five former pupils, three of whom testified against him at trial, he stared grimly as Mr. Justice Brian Trafford read out a lengthy judgment that graphically described Mr. Cook's use of an imitation catheter in one of the mock kidney transplant sessions.

Acquitted on two related charges of indecent assault and sexual interference, Mr. Cook, 67, will be sentenced Nov. 17. Prosecutor Mary Humphrey said later that she will be seeking a provincial jail term, meaning less than two years.

Judge Trafford concurred with defence lawyer John Rosen's contention that Mr. Cook did not touch the boys for his own sexual gratification. But the former teacher is nonetheless guilty of sexual assault, the judge concluded, because he used his position of authority to abuse the boys, leaving them feeling violated and ashamed.

"He knew of their sensitivity, as 12- to 13-year-old boys, to their development of their sexuality and to nudity," the judge wrote. "He knew they trusted him as their teacher, especially in the context of the mock operation, where they had volunteered for, and been selected by Mr. Cook as participants."

All of the complainants accused him of improprieties when they were in Grade 7. Some of the abuse occurred during the mock transplants, which had students dress up as patients and doctors and involved attaching a catheter resembling a condom joined to a tube to the penis of the "patient."

Other incidents were part of an accelerated learning method called "super learning" -- also developed by Mr. Cook -- which entailed breathing exercises and relaxation techniques in loosened clothing.

Mr. Cook's verdict is the latest in a string of old child-sex criminal cases at UCC. Last year, former teacher Douglas Brown, now 56, was sentenced to three years imprisonment for sexually assaulting six students during the mid-1970s.

In 2004, onetime teaching assistant Ashley Chivers, now 30, was convicted of possessing child pornography. Arrested a year earlier while still on staff, he initially escaped incarceration, in lieu of a conditional 18-month sentence, but was subsequently jailed for violating his terms of house arrest.

And there were other scandals.

Teacher Clark Noble left UCC in 1971 after a 17-year-old boy accused him of sodomizing him after getting him drunk at a private club. Rather than being prosecuted, Mr. Noble was allowed to leave quietly. He taught elsewhere and in 1997, was convicted of an assault on a boy at Appleby College in Oakville.

Most recently, in December, a 70-year-old former UCC house master was acquitted on six charges of assaulting a student under his care during the 1980s. The judge made plain he did not believe the former student's testimony.

That student, now 28 and being prosecuted in California on child-sex charges, was one of the original complainants against Mr. Cook.

As with another former student, who has moved to Israel and was reluctant to testify, Ms. Humphrey dropped the charges stemming from his statements to police.

That left three former UCC pupils -- a law student, a businessman and a drug-abuse counsellor -- all of whom testified against Mr. Cook, and all of whom Judge Trafford said yesterday he found credible.

Much of Mr. Cook's testimony wasn't believable, the judge found.

He was nonetheless acquitted of a charge of sexual interference, which arose from one of the mock kidney transplant sessions, because of insufficient evidence Mr. Cook's motives were sexual -- a key component of the charge.

He was acquitted also of one count of indecent assault -- as sexual assault used to be described -- dated to the early 1980s. The judge ruled that too much time had passed for the complainant's memory to be reliable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ms. Humphrey and Toronto Detective Wendy Leaver, who led the police investigation, were nonetheless content with the outcome.

"I really believe justice has been done," said Det. Leaver of the sex-crimes unit. "The victims were very courageous."

Mr. Rosen declined comment after the conviction, and helped Mr. Cook and his wife dodge a throng of photographers waiting outside the courthouse.

Mr. Cook was hired by UCC in 1979 as a science master. He later took over the department and held the position until he retired in 1994.

After retiring, he taught undergraduate courses at the University of Toronto until his arrest in 2004.

Other prosecutions

Other Upper Canada College teachers faced prosecution on sex-crime charges in the past two years.

Herbert Sommerfeld, a former teacher and dorm supervisor, was acquitted in December, 2005, of allegations he sexually abused a student decades earlier. The music and math instructor retired in 1996. Now in his 70s, he faces a civil lawsuit brought by an alleged victim.

Douglas Brown, a former teacher and dormitory housemaster, was convicted in 2004 of nine counts of indecent assault involving six students from 1975 to 1980.

He was sentenced to three years in prison; the conviction is under appeal.

Ashley Chivers was convicted in 2004 of possessing child pornography and given an 18-month conditional sentence. He was a teaching assistant from 1995, until his arrest in 2003.

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