The following story contains explicit details of sexual assault. Rapid access counselling is available in the Yukon at 867-456-3838. Mental health support is available 24/7 at the Wellness Together Canada hotline at 1-866-585-0445.
A retired Whitehorse teacher has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a former student.
The verdict found him guilty of one of five charges following a trial last fall. The decision was read in court on Dec. 9.
Paul Deuling, now in his 70s, was charged with the sexual offences, alleged to have taken place in the 1980s, in 2019. The Yukon Territorial Court, presided over by Judge Brian Neal, heard evidence about the accusations against Deuling in a trial spanning late September of this year.
Deuling was accused by a former student at a Whitehorse school who also played sports on teams he coached. She had been a child or teenager at the time of all the alleged offences. The accusations came first in a 2018 civil suit that is ongoing.
The accusations included events of inappropriate touching and a kiss while the woman was at the school and also allegations that Deuling raped her on two occasions when she was an older teen. The court heard there was continued sexual contact between Deuling and the alleged victim in the months following the second alleged assault, which the woman maintained in testimony was also not consensual.
The court heard accounts from the alleged victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban, as well as from eight other witnesses. The others included teachers and administrators in the Whitehorse school system at the time of the alleged offences and members of the alleged victim’s family. Deuling did not take the stand.
In his Dec. 9 judgement, which took more than two-and-a-half hours to read, Neal explained his reasons for arriving at a guilty or not guilty verdict in each of the five alleged offences. While Neal found inconsistencies between testimony from the alleged victim and other witnesses, he found that these specific faults shouldn’t mar the credibility of her overall testimony. The judge noted that some of the events took place more that 40 years ago.
The first allegation heard was that Deuling’s contact with the woman while teaching or coaching her in sports or gym classes amounted to indecent assault, a criminal offence that is no longer in the Criminal Code but was in the early 80s when the contact is supposed to have taken place. Neal found significant concerns about the reliability of the woman’s testimony saying that it was difficult to believe that Deuling touched her as described with other students and female teachers present. He also noted instances where her testimony or statements she had given to police contradicted information she gave on the stand. Neal found Deuling not guilty on this count, citing reasonable doubt that the events happened as described.
The second count, this one an alleged sexual assault, dealt with Deuling allegedly grabbing and kissing the alleged victim when she was in his office adjoining the school’s gym after school hours.
The alleged victim testified that she went to the school after hours to discuss her absences, which she said were caused by the chaotic situation in her home, with Deuling. Neal found this testimony was contradicted by evidence from other witnesses.
The judge also noted the alleged victim’s inconsistent description of the office and its window which was also contradicted by other witnesses. Unable to prove beyond doubt that the kiss in the office took place, Neal found Deuling not guilty on this count as well.
The woman who made the complaint about Deuling’s actions had moved on to another Whitehorse school but had been asked to join her former coach on a running relay team when the third offence was alleged to have taken place.
During trial, the court heard from the alleged victim that Deuling had pulled her to the ground while on a training run in a wooded area and then raped her. No other witnesses were able to provide evidence about this event but Neal found the woman’s recollections materially inconsistent and was unable to find beyond a reasonable doubt that she and Deuling had done anything but run together. The judge found Deuling not guilty on this charge as well.
The fourth count was the one Neal found Deuling guilty of.
On the topic of this charge, also an allegation of sexual assault, the court heard that the victim was dropped off by her father at a Whitehorse school where Deuling was waiting. The woman testified that she had been told to meet there so Deuling could drive her to a basketball camp and was not dressed to be outdoors for long in the cold fall weather. She said that no other students were present and they soon left in Deuling’s truck, driving away from the city on a highway.
After pulling off the highway, unpacking equipment and setting up camp, the court heard that Deuling instructed her to zip their sleeping bags together, undress and get inside. She told the court that she felt doing what she was told was her only option and complied before Deuling climbed on top of her and raped her. She said he later shot a bear and instructed her to assist him with skinning it. The court heard that she lay awake shivering through the night and in the morning Deuling raped her again before they returned to Whitehorse.
Neal found that the woman was “unshaken” under cross examination and consistent about her descriptions of the clothing she was wearing, Deuling’s truck and the events of the trip. She unequivocally denied throughout her testimony that the sexual acts described were consensual and Neal found that there was no possible way she could have consented as she was vulnerable and completely dependent on Deuling for food, shelter and transportation while at the campsite. Neal said that the woman, who is more than 20 years younger than Deuling, also deferred to him as a trusted person in a position of authority over her.
Neal found that both alleged sexual assaults at the campsite took place and that Deuling was guilty of both.
Deuling was found not guilty of the fifth count, with the judge expressing reasonable doubt that the periodic sexual contact between Deuling and the alleged victim in the months following the events on the camping trip was not consensual.
The judge drew from inconsistencies in the woman’s testimony regarding abuse earlier in life at the hands of her former stepmother, who she was living with at this time. The judge said he could not conclude that Deuling was exercising authority over the woman to illegally obtain consent for sex at this time because she was no longer enrolled as a student and was not reliant on Deuling for anything when she was visiting him at the house he shared with another teacher.
There was sexual contact between them throughout this time. The complainant maintained throughout the trial that the sexual interaction between them was not consensual but Neal said he was unable to find the same given the evidence provided.
Deuling will be back before the court in January so a date for sentencing can be set.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org