HALIFAX -- A former police chief in Nova Scotia has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for sexually exploiting a teenage girl in 2016.

John Collyer, former chief of the Bridgewater Police Service, was found guilty in October 2019 of one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation.

However, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Mona Lynch ordered a conditional stay on the sexual assault conviction, based on the principle that an accused cannot be convicted of two offences arising from the same actions.

The Crown and defence submitted a joint recommendation for the 15-month sentence, which Lynch accepted Wednesday.

“Fifteen months was a fit and appropriate sentence that fit well within the range of the case law that we had found,” said Crown attorney Roland Levesque.

Levesque said there were two aggravating factors in the case.

“It’s the fact of the victim being a very young person, very vulnerable and the position of the accused as chief of police and breaching his trust,” he explained.

“The trust that was put in him was very egregious.”

Following his jail sentence, Collyer will be on probation for one year. He will also need to submit a DNA sample and register as a sex offender.

'He victimized my whole family'

The 56-year-old was holding hands with his wife when he arrived at court Wednesday morning.

He declined to address the court, but his victim and her mother both read victim impact statements.

A publication ban is in effect to protect the victim’s identity.

The young woman, who was 17 years old at the time of the offence, told the court that Collyer lied and she wishes she never met him.

“I will never let what you did to me bring me down,” she said.

Her mother told the court that she is drained, exhausted, and feels like a failure.

“I feel like he victimized my whole family,” she said. “I could never make anyone fully understand how I feel.”

Levesque said both women are devastated.

“The impact is hard to describe,” he said. “If you haven’t sort of lived through that sort of traumatic event, where you feel betrayed by somebody that you’ve put all of your trust in, that you look upon that person as a parent, and he commits such a violent act on you, it’s hard to put that into words.”

Collyer groomed teen for sexual relationship

Collyer was first charged in May 2017 and suspended from the Bridgewater Police Service shortly afterwards.

The 26-year veteran of the police force was tried last year. During his trial, court heard that Collyer groomed the girl for a sexual relationship and later sexually assaulted her in his car in 2016.

“As a society, we depend on police officers to uphold the law and to protect us,” said Levesque.

“So when a police officer breaches that trust that society puts in them, it’s very disheartening to everyone in the community and I think it’s especially so when you have that person being a chief of police who should be setting an example for the men and the women that he leads.”

Considering his former status as a police chief, there was a recommendation from the court that Collyer serve his time in protective custody. However, it’s up to the correctional facility to facilitate that request.