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'He kisses me in wrong places'

John Howard Society director on trial

THE head of Manitoba's John Howard Society might go on the witness stand in his own defence today as he battles allegations he inappropriately touched a young girl.

William John Hutton, 54, has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and sexual interference. His two-day trial began Thursday in a Winnipeg courtroom.

The charges arise from a rural RCMP investigation that got underway on Jan. 2, 2013 when the alleged victim, then 11, came forward to give a formal statement.

Police and the Crown allege Hutton illegally fondled and kissed the girl between December 2009 and the date of her complaint to police.

Hutton, through defence lawyer Saul Simmonds, pleaded not guilty.

"The truth in this case will demonstrate that my client is not guilty of an offence," Simmonds told provincial court Judge John Combs.

A charge of sexual exploitation was stayed by Crown attorney Robert Gosman at the outset of the hearing.

Combs was brought in from Brandon to hear the case, which is covered by a publication ban to protect the now-12-year-old complainant's identity.

The ban means few specifics from the hearing can be disclosed in the media.

The Crown closed its case following the testimony of two witnesses: an RCMP investigator and the alleged victim.

The girl testified from behind a screen and was not visible to the court gallery, where Hutton sat making notes, surrounded by several supporters.

Her video statement to RCMP was played in its entirety for Combs, who admitted it into evidence.

In it, the girl appears very reluctant, at least initially, to talk to Const. Joseé Lagacé.

"I don't want to talk about it today," she says. "I'm not ready."

After some additional back and forth with Lagacé, the girl relents. "Can I say it really, really fast?," she asks Lagacé.

"Sometimes he, like, kisses me in wrong places," the girl went on to state.

Lagacé then uses anatomical diagrams to have the girl point out where she alleges she was touched.

After the video was played, the girl told court she had told the RCMP the truth.

She faced a lengthy and strong cross-examination from Simmonds.

The lawyer pointed to several inconsistencies in her evidence and presented other motivations she might have had to complain about Hutton.

The girl conceded she was aware she had avenues to safely disclose any problems she was having before the RCMP became involved.

She was also pressed on her specific recall of events.

"The whole thing is just hard to remember -- it's just hard," the girl said. "I can't recall the certain times."

The trial continues this morning, and it's possible Hutton might testify in his own behalf.

He's currently on leave from his role as executive director of the Manitoba chapter of the John Howard Society.

The JHS runs several programs aimed at helping male offenders reintegrate into society.

Hutton is presumed innocent.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Comments are not accepted on this story because it involves young offenders or minors.

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