Robert Tanner Cervo, 38, was charged with sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 14 and two counts of sexual exploitation. During his appearance in provincial court in Abbotsford on Friday those charges were stayed and information was sworn for the peace bond.
Cervo did not plead guilty to any criminal charges; however, the peace bond means that he admits there were circumstances that gave rise to a reasonable fear by the complainant that Cervo would commit sexual offences. A peace bond is a recognizance meant to prevent someone from committing a crime.
The outcome of the case was unusual and one that, according to Crown, required extensive discussions involving defence counsel, the complainant, Crown and other individuals within the provincial Ministry of Justice.
“It wasn’t easy to go into this resolution,” Crown prosecutor Sylvia Domaradzki told the court. She said the discussions were “various and numerous” and took into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case along with other circumstances.
Domaradzki said that everyone agreed a peace bond was an appropriate resolution.
According to submissions made in court, Cervo and the complainant — who cannot be identified due to a publication ban — initially had a teacher-student relationship that evolved into that of a family friend and then something inappropriate.
“Boundaries were crossed, your honour,” said defence lawyer Claire Hatcher.
Details of what exactly took place were not revealed in court.
Cervo was suspended immediately after the complainant went to police in August 2012 and Cervo was fired from his job at Chief Dan George Middle School in June 2013.
According to the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch website, Cervo’s teaching certification is still valid, but he has signed an undertaking not to practise pending resolution of a matter before the commissioner or a hearing panel.
Hatcher said Cervo has learned a hard lesson and “has great regret and remorse.”
Judge Gregory Brown issued the peace bond for a period of one year. He said he was initially taken “a little by surprise” when he read the facts of the case, but in the end agreed with the Crown and defence submissions.
Cervo will be subject to a number of conditions, including that he do whatever counselling or programming is required, have no contact with the complainant or her immediate family (including staying at least 300 metres from their homes, places of work or schools), and not being alone with any female under 16 years old unless her parents know about the peace bond and expressly allow him to be alone with her.
Outside court the complainant, now 22 years old, told reporters that it was good to see Cervo finally acknowledge that acts of a sexual nature had taken place.
“It’s been hell for everyone involved, but it’s time to move on right now,” she said.
She said that in her opinion the peace bond was the right resolution for everyone involved. Her mother, who stood at her side, agreed.
“With a trial there’s no certainty about the outcome,” she said. “This was a certainty.”
Her mother said the family does feel there is closure now that the court case has wrapped up and Cervo will not be teaching in B.C. again.
“It’s been a long journey,” she said. “We are proud of our daughter.”