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October 28, 2017 5:49 am

Former Ft. St. James Fire Chief Guilty

Friday, February 13, 2015 @ 2:30 PM

Prince George, B.C. – Former Ft, St. James Volunteer Fired Department Chief Robert Harold Bennett has been found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.The  assaults  had taken place  over a 6 and a half year period .  All three victims were female volunteer firefighters,  two of whom wept as the verdict was delivered by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett.

In two of the counts, Bennett was accused of touching the breasts of two women,  grabbing their buttocks, and rubbing his body up against  their buttocks. In the third count, he was accused of taking  the complainant to  a room, locking the door, wrestling her  to the ground, and with his penis exposed, was reaching  for the  complainant’s belt  when  someone knocked at the door  breaking off the encounter.

While the defense had  tried to  present a case that the incidents of  touching the breasts or buttocks of the complainants was meant  in a humorous  manner,  Justice Parrett said he found that not to be the case.  He  said  testimony from other firefighters indicated the atmosphere at the Ft. St. James Firehall was “toxic” and Bennett and  his third in command,  had “abandoned any pretense of leadership.”

Justice Parrett said he believed the  accused knew his actions were not consensual, and dismissed the idea the incidents were meant  to be funny because testimony from other firefighters  indicated they had  “genuine concern” and had tried to  protect or screen  the women from the unwanted  actions of Bennett.  In one case, two firefighters physically removed Bennett from the truck of one of the complainants as she tried to leave the area.

Bennett has not yet been sentenced,  that will come at a later date  when a pre-sentence report has been  completed.  The 51 year old Bennett  will be allowed to return to his home in Ft. St James until sentencing but he is under  strict conditions  to not have any contact whatsoever with the  three complainants. Bennett has been advised that should he breach that condition,  he  will be immediately detained and brought before Justice Parrett.



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