Former teacher at boys’ school in Alberta appeals sexual abuse convictions


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A former teacher convicted of sexually abusing a student in the early 1990s is appealing his conviction and sentence.

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Paul Sheppard was sentenced to six years in prison last week after a jury found him guilty of three sexual offenses. The abuse, which involved a grade 7 student, occurred during the 1993-94 school year at St. John’s School of Alberta, a male-only boarding school southwest of Stony Plain, known for its rigorous outdoor program and its use of corporal punishment.

Sheppard, 58, then served as the school principal. St. John’s closed in 2008 due to declining registrations.

Sheppard was found to have sexually touched Steacy Easton about 10 times during the school year, usually under the guise of disciplinary action in his office. Sheppard has denied any wrongdoing.

Jurors eventually found him guilty of three felonies, including sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.

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Easton, who uses the them / them pronouns, has successfully attempted to remove a publication ban from their name.

Sheppard’s appeal, filed Wednesday, seeks an order from the Alberta Court of Appeal setting aside his convictions or ordering a new trial.

In particular, the appeal alleges that Trial Judge Debra Yungwirth was wrong to deny disclosure of the victim’s therapeutic records for review under section 278 of the Criminal Code.

Sheppard also alleges that Yungwirth allowed him to be cross-examined “in an unfair manner which reversed the onus” and failed to properly instruct the jury.

If the conviction is upheld, Sheppard argues that the six-year sentence is “excessive” and ignores rehabilitation and the principle of parity. The crimes carried a maximum sentence of 10 years – the Crown asked for six to eight years, while the defense asked for two years plus probation.

Sheppard received 16 letters of support from former colleagues, parents and students. Among them was Alberta Provincial Court Judge Allan Fradsham, who said he had known Sheppard for 25 years. He called the former teacher’s conduct “completely at odds” with the man he knows.

Sheppard was charged with similar offenses while teaching at a school in the UK, prior to his stay in St. John’s. He was acquitted in 2015.

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