Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch charged with sexually assaulting woman

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
31,907
2,245
113
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch charged with sexually assaulting woman
The Woodstock Police Service board is holding a special meeting this week to address the charges against Trevor Birtch

Author of the article:Jennifer Bieman
Publishing date:Feb 07, 2022 • 18 hours ago • 2 minute read
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch was re-elected in the 2018 municipal election. (Postmedia Network file photo)
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch was re-elected in the 2018 municipal election. (Postmedia Network file photo)
Article content
The Woodstock police services board is holding a special meeting this week to address the criminal charges against the city’s mayor, Trevor Birtch, as council colleagues remained tight-lipped about their next move.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Birtch, one of two council appointees to the police board, is charged with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking, according to court records obtained by The Free Press .

Who's winning the electric pickup truck sales race?

Trackerdslogo
“We are going to be having a meeting very early this week. The mayor will be invited,” said Ken Whiteford, chair of the Woodstock police service board. “We have received legal advice and we’re acting in accordance with that advice.”

Members of police service boards in Ontario are required to adhere to the code of conduct set out in a regulation under the Police Service Act. Among the requirements, police board members must not act in a way that discredits or compromises “the integrity of the board or the police force” and must “uphold the letter and spirit” of the code of conduct.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“We’ll be looking at those various items and determining whether or not he (Birtch) has breached any of those,” Whiteford said. “This is a very unfortunate situation. As a police service board, we have to keep in mind that these are allegations . . . and we have to keep that at the forefront during our deliberations on this matter.”

The Woodstock police board does not have the power to remove Birtch from his role, but can request an investigation into his conduct by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services or the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, the agency that investigates police board members in the province.

London police laid the charges against Birtch, 46, last week. The allegations against Birtch involve three separate incidents last year with the same female complainant, the court documents states.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
He is accused of sexually assaulting the woman on Valentine’s Day last year, assaulting her some time between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, and sexually assaulting her with choking between Dec. 10 and 13, 2021, the documents state.

Birtch did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

None of the members of Woodstock city council would comment on their next move in response to the criminal charges against Birtch when contacted by The Free Press over the weekend.

Ontario’s Municipal Act does not give councils the power to remove an elected member from office, even if the person is charged or convicted. Only a jail sentence disqualifies a municipal politician from holding office.

Municipal councils can pass symbolic motions to denounce a member’s conduct or request their resignation.

Birtch was first elected as Woodstock’s mayor in 2014 and won a second term in 2018, defeating runner-up Shawn Shapton by nearly 1,800 votes.

jbieman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JenatLFPress
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
31,907
2,245
113
Calls grow for Woodstock mayor charged with sex assault to step aside
Trevor Birtch was charged last week with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking.

Author of the article:Heather Rivers
Publishing date:Feb 11, 2022 • 23 hours ago • 4 minute read • 8 Comments
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch is facing growing calls to step aside after he was charged last week with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking. The city's chief administrative officer said Birtch remains as mayor. (Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network)
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch is facing growing calls to step aside after he was charged last week with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking. The city's chief administrative officer said Birtch remains as mayor. (Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network)
Article content
He remains at the helm of Woodstock city council, saying nothing publicly about the controversy swirling around him, but calls are growing for Mayor Trevor Birtch to step aside amid criminal charges, including sexual assault, laid against him last week.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Toyota Super Bowl ad features Canadian Paralympians, no cars

Trackerdslogo
“He has the moral obligation to step down or take a leave of absence,” Diane Harris, who heads two domestic abuse agencies in Woodstock, said of the two-term mayor charged with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking.

Birtch still wasn’t talking Thursday, a day after his council — half of them women — met in a closed emergency meeting to discuss the situation, though the chief administrative officer of the city of 40,000 clarified that Birtch is still politically in charge.

“There is no change to that status. He remains the mayor,” David Creery said.

But while Birtch and most of his council have remained tight-lipped in the wake of the charges, with the mayor saying nothing about them or about his political intentions in an election year, Harris and other observers say they believe he should step aside pending the charges against him.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“How can he manage a city when he is up on (such serious) charges?” asked Harris, executive director of Domestic Abuse Services Oxford and Ingamo Homes, a transitional housing agency for women and children fleeing domestic abuse.

Harris noted the mayor read a proclamation last fall on the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, and “if he is going to say those words, he has a moral obligation to step down and to show women and girls in our community that he means those words.”

AnnaLise Trudell of Anova, a London shelter and counselling agency for abused women, agreed Birtch should step aside.

“For those (sexual assault survivors) watching this, it is so heavy, so diminishing,” she said, adding “there is a need for him to step back and aside to honour that experience, otherwise it looks incredibly insensitive.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Birtch has entered no pleas to the charges against him and is not due in court until May.

Under Ontario’s municipal law, there’s no requirement for a civic politician facing criminal charges or convicted of them to step aside or resign. Only a jail sentence disqualifies a municipal politician from holding office.

Still, with Birtch likely to be “under this cloud for some time,” the optics of hanging in are not good, said Jacquetta Newman, a political science professor at King’s University College in London and a specialist on women in politics.

“It may be that the mayor is concerned that to resign his position as mayor, it makes him look guilty,” she said. “On the other hand, these are particularly serious charges and it makes sense for an authority figure . . . to refrain from public duty until the situation is figured out.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“It will certainly undermine his credibility as mayor. Plus, continuing to sit as mayor is going to keep him in the public eye. And those charges are going to hang over him. And it may take a lot of time to be resolved,” Newman said.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

City Hall in Woodstock. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)
We asked: Should Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch step down?
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch was charged this week with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking following an investigation by London police into a complaint by a woman. Postmedia file photo
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch charged with sexually assaulting woman
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch was re-elected in the 2018 municipal election. (Postmedia Network file photo)
Woodstock police board mulls mayor's role after criminal charges
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch was re-elected in the 2018 municipal election. (Postmedia Network file photo)
Woodstock council must push ahead amid mayor's charges: Councillor
Woodstock mayor Trevor Birtch (Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network)
Questions swirl in fallout of criminal charges against Woodstock mayor
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch (Jason Dunham/Special to Postmedia Network)
Emergency council meeting called as Woodstock mayor sidelined from police board

Birtch, 46, was charged by London police last week, court records show. The allegations all involve the same woman as complainant, whom he is accused of sexually assaulting on Valentine’s Day last year.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Birtch is accused of assaulting her sometime between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, and accused of sexually assaulting her with choking between Dec. 10 and 13, 2021, the documents say.

A Woodstock police spokesperson said the force received a complaint about Birtch and asked London police to investigate, citing a potential conflict of interest.

Birtch has not responded to repeated Free Press requests for comment.

Woodstock’s next regular council meeting is Feb. 17, but Creery, the chief administrative officer, said he couldn’t say whether the mayor will be there.

“We will have to wait for the meeting to convene and if he is there, he is there,” he said.

The board that oversees the Woodstock police force, on which the mayor sits as a council representative, has asked a provincial oversight agency, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, to investigate and rule on Birtch’s membership on the board. The board has also excluded him from meetings until then.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Birtch also sits on Oxford County council, but Woodstock’s deputy mayor, Connie Lauder, filled in for him during a meeting this week.

Woodstock, like the rest of Ontario, is eight months from its next civic election. Birtch was first elected as mayor in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.

Giselle Lutfallah, who co-chairs the Oxford County Domestic Abuse Resource Team, said Birtch remaining as mayor with the charges pending is problematic, and potentially “very triggering” for victims of sexual violence.

“Now that police charges have been laid, and we look at people in positions of authority — this really erodes trust,” she said.

Birtch chaired a council meeting Feb. 3, a day before The Free Press broke the story about the charges against him.

Municipal councils can pass symbolic motions asking a member facing charges to step aside, but they have no power under Ontario’s Municipal Act to force such a politician to withdraw or resign.

hrivers@postmedia.com
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
31,907
2,245
113
Woodstock mayor returns to public eye, remains silent on sex charges
Trevor Birtch chaired his first city council meeting since three criminal charges were made public

Author of the article:Heather Rivers
Publishing date:Feb 17, 2022 • 1 day ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch appeared Thursday for the first time in public session at a Woodstock council meeting on Thursday since news broke earlier this morning that he had been charged with three sex offences. He made no comment about the charges during the virtual meeting of city council.
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch appeared Thursday for the first time in public session at a Woodstock council meeting on Thursday since news broke earlier this morning that he had been charged with three sex offences. He made no comment about the charges during the virtual meeting of city council.
Article content
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch chaired his first city council meeting Thursday since three criminal charges— including sex assault with choking – were made public, leaving those calling for him to take a leave of absence from his political role disappointed.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Cann raises nearly $35 million as it launches in Canada

Trackerdslogo
“It was my hope for a statement today saying he is taking a leave of absence to look after the business at hand that he has,” said Diane Harris, executive director of Domestic Abuse Services Oxford and Ingamo Homes, a transitional housing agency for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. “It’s not just what is in the best interest of women and girls in the City in Woodstock and Oxford County, but for all of the citizens of the City of Woodstock.”

During the virtual meeting, several online users accessed the chat feature to call for Birtch, a two-term mayor, to step back from his role as head of Woodstock city council.

Birtch provided no comment about the controversy.

Under Ontario’s municipal law, there’s no requirement for a civic politician facing criminal charges or convicted of them to step aside or resign. Only a jail sentence disqualifies a municipal politician from holding office.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Birtch, 46, was charged by London police two weeks ago, court records show. The allegations all involve the same woman as complainant, whom he is accused of sexually assaulting on Valentine’s Day in 2021.

He also is accused of assaulting the complainant sometime between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, and accused of sexually assaulting her with choking between Dec. 10 and 13, 2021, the documents say.

London police took over the investigation at the request of Woodstock police, citing a potential conflict of interest because Birtch sat on the Woodstock police services board, the civilian body responsible for overseeing policing in the Oxford County city.

Birtch, who served as vice-chair of the police board, has stepped down from that board until an investigation is completed by the Ontario Civilian Police Services Commission.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Jennifer Dunn, head of London Abused Women’s Centre, said her agency is seeking to be approved as a delegation at an upcoming Woodstock council meeting with the intention of educating councillors “but specifically the mayor” about violence against women.

“There is no way a man in this position of power for the City of Woodstock should be able to hold his position,” she said. “He should at least have a moral obligation (to step down).”

Birtch and most of his council, half of whom are women, have remained tight-lipped in the wake of the charges, with the mayor saying nothing about them or about his political intentions in an election year,

“That speaks to the pattern of behaviour,” Dunn said. “It’s almost as if it’s being pushed under the rug, (as in) ‘Let’s not talk about it.’

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“We need to talk about it.”

Woodstock’s integrity commissioner, Goderich-area lawyer Gregory Stewart, says he’s received no formal complaints regarding the charges against Birtch and there is no investigation underway.

“As of now, these are charges. Under our law, a person accused of a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Stewart said in an emailed statement. “Therefore, even if I received a formal complaint, it would be premature for me to conduct any investigation based on allegations.”

Birtch was first elected as Woodstock’s mayor in 2014 – defeating then mayor Pat Sobeski and former mayor Michael Harding – and was re-elected in 2018, defeating challenger Shawn Shapton by nearly 1,800 votes.

hrivers@postmedia.com
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
31,907
2,245
113
Woodstock councillor assuming duties of mayor accused of sexual assault with choking
Trevor Birtch, 46, was charged by London police three weeks ago,

Author of the article:Heather Rivers
Publishing date:Feb 25, 2022 • 21 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch. (Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network)
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch. (Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network)
Article content
A Woodstock city councillor announced on Thursday she’s taking over the duties of embattled Mayor Trevor Birtch, who is facing three criminal charges including sexual assault with choking, city officials say.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Cann raises nearly $35 million as it launches in Canada

Trackerdslogo
Woodstock’s top bureaucrat, David Creery, said Connie Lauder, who has been serving as acting mayor, started a Thursday budget meeting by noting she’ll be the chair because Birtch has asked her to take the helm at debates “until further notice.”

“There is no further information from him at this time,” Creery said, adding Lauder said “she looks forward to working with council and staff through the budget deliberation process.”

Diane Harris, executive director of Domestic Abuse Services Oxford and Ingamo Homes, a transitional housing agency for women and children fleeing domestic abuse, said she felt “some relief” at hearing Birtch had delegated his responsibilities to another council member.

“I am very pleased that Mayor Birtch – I don’t know if he has stepped down or taken a leave – and I’m very pleased that the council is taking over that role,” she said. “I think it shows that council is working in the right direction, especially with the severity of the charges, and putting the citizens of the city of Woodstock first.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Jennifer Dunn, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, said because it is unclear whether Birtch has stepped back, she still will proceed with a planned delegation to city council on March 17 to talk about gender-based abuse.

“Until he actually says what is happening, our plan is to move ahead with appearing before city council,” she said.

Birtch, 46, was charged by London police three weeks ago, court records obtained by The London Free Press show. The allegations all involve the same complainant. Birtch is accused of sexually assaulting her on Valentine’s Day, 2021. He also is accused of assaulting her some time between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, and accused of sexually assaulting her with choking between Dec. 10 and 13, 2021, the documents state. None of the accusations has been tested in court.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
London police took over the investigation at the request of Woodstock police, citing a potential conflict of interest because Birtch sat on the Woodstock police services board, the civilian body that oversees the department.

Birtch, who served as vice-chair of the police board, has stepped down from that board until an investigation is completed by the Ontario Civilian Police Services Commission.

Birtch first was elected as Woodstock’s mayor in 2014 – defeating then-mayor Pat Sobeski and former mayor Michael Harding – and was reelected in 2018, defeating challenger Shawn Shapton by nearly 1,800 votes.

A father of three, Birtch studied political science and business at Western University and worked as a financial analyst at the County of Oxford for 11 years before entering municipal politics. Birtch did not return requests for comment.

hrivers@postmedia.com
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
31,907
2,245
113
Woodstock mayor facing criminal charges goes on leave of absence with pay
Trevor Birtch has three charges against him that include sexual assault with choking.

Author of the article:Heather Rivers
Publishing date:Apr 22, 2022 • 1 day ago • 3 minute read
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch. (Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network)
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch. (Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network)
The head of a local domestic violence agency is welcoming a motion passed by Woodstock city council giving embattled Mayor Trevor Birtch a leave of absence with pay while he deals with three criminal charges, including sexual assault.



“This is exactly what needs to happen – he needs to step aside during this time,” said Jennifer Dunn, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre. “The issue is you have a man in a position of power; he’s the mayor of the city and he is supposed to lead the city but he’s not doing that in a very respectful way.

“He cannot be trusted to lead the city with the dignity it deserves.”

City councillors supported a motion by Coun. Deb Tait calling for city council to approve a leave of absence with pay for Birtch while he responds to the criminal charges in court proceedings expected to take a significant period of time.

There was no public debate at the council meeting Thursday before the vote was held. All six councillors at the meeting voted in favour of the motion. Birtch was not at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.


Birtch, 46, was charged in early February with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking following an investigation by London police into a complaint by a woman.

Birtch remained active politically even after he handed his duties as head of Woodstock council over to deputy mayor Connie Lauder in late February.

“I am happy that he will no longer be visible to the public at large and to anyone who has been victimized or traumatized,” said Diane Harris, executive director of Domestic Abuse Services Oxford and Ingamo Homes, a transitional housing agency for women and children fleeing domestic abuse.

“I understand that council can’t do anything further, but I do support the fact that no one has to view this man in a place of power.”


Most city councillors have remained silent since the charges were laid, Lauder included, on the advice of their lawyer, she said.

“He’s taking time off,” Lauder told The Free Press in late February. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s innocent until proven guilty. There is nothing else he has to reveal to me or anyone of us.”

Birtch and city councillors had faced pressure from domestic violence agencies in both Woodstock and London, demanding Birtch taking a leave from his position of power, citing safety issues.

“When something like this happens in a community it has a ripple effect,” Dunn said. “And so you have family members, the victim, women and girls who feel disrespected and feel what is going to happen next, it could be me.”


Politicians facing criminal charges can stay in office even if they’re convicted. Only a jail sentence disqualifies a municipal politician from holding office.

The allegations against Birtch all involve the same female complainant, whom he is accused of sexually assaulting on Valentine’s Day last year, the court documents say.

Birtch is accused of assaulting her sometime between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, and accused of sexually assaulting her with choking between Dec. 10 and 13, 2021, the documents say.

He is prohibited from going within 100 metres of the home, workplace or school of the complainant, as well as two other women.

A father of three, Birtch studied political science and business at Western University and worked as a financial analyst at the County of Oxford for 11 years before entering municipal politics, according to an online biography. The next municipal election will be held this fall.

HRivers@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/HeatheratLFP

FOR THOSE SEEKING HELP
London Abused Women’s Centre: 519-432-2204

Anova’s 24-hour crisis line: 519-642-3000 or 1-800-265-1576

DASO’s 24-hour crisis line: 519-539-4811 or 1-800-265-1938
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
31,907
2,245
113
Embattled Woodstock mayor faces more sex charges: London police
Less than a week after going on paid leave while facing sex-related charges, police announced more charges against Trevor Birtch

Author of the article:Dale Carruthers
Publishing date:Apr 26, 2022 • 14 hours ago • 2 minute read
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch faces a total of six sex charges. (Postmedia Network file photo)
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch faces a total of six sex charges. (Postmedia Network file photo)
Less than a week after going on paid leave while facing sex-related charges, Woodstock’s mayor faces additional charges.


London police announced more charges against Trevor Birtch, 47, on Tuesday. He faces three new counts of sexual assault for alleged incidents involving the same woman between Jan. 1, 2017, and April 5, according to court documents.

The documents show the two-term mayor was arrested April 14. London police didn’t announce the charges until Tuesday, four days after Woodstock council approved a paid leave for Birtch while he deals with a separate set of criminal charges.

London police charged Birtch in early February with assault, sexual assault and sexual assault with choking after Woodstock police received a complaint and referred it to the London force, citing a possible conflict of interest because Birtch was a member of the police services board.


Since then, Birtch and his council colleagues – most of whom have remained silent publicly – have faced demands from domestic violence agencies in Woodstock and London that he step aside.

The latest charges show Birtch needed to take a leave, the head of the London Abused Women’s Centre said.

“From the beginning, we wanted him to step down,” executive director Jennifer Dunn said.

“This is a public safety issue and women and girls need to feel like they’re safe in their community.”

The most recent charges, alleging incidents in London over a five-year period, stem from a complaint to London police with the aid of a community partner, spokesperson Const. Scott Mandich said, adding Birtch and the complainant are “known to each other.”


Birtch was released from custody on the condition that he doesn’t go within 50 metres of a Woodstock address. He’s slated to appear in court July 4.

Birtch, who didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday, hasn’t spoken publicly since The Free Press first reported on his initial criminal charges nearly three months ago.

In that case, Birtch is accused of sexually assaulting a woman on Valentine’s Day last year. He is also is accused of assaulting her between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, and of sexually assaulting her with choking between Dec. 10 and 13, 2021, according to court documents. He’s set to make his first court appearance Monday.

Woodstock council voted unanimously Thursday to support Coun. Deb Tait’s motion to approve a paid leave of absence for Birtch while he responds to the criminal charges in court, a process expected to take a long time.


Dunn applauded council for passing the motion.

“It’s so important because the community will see that Woodstock city council is taking this seriously,” she said.

“Now we have two separate (complainants), six serious charges, and where does it go from here?”

A father of three, Birtch was first elected as Woodstock’s mayor in 2014 and reelected in 2018.

Under Ontario’s Municipal Act, politicians facing criminal charges can stay in office even if convicted. Only a jail sentence disqualifies a municipal politician from holding office. It’s unclear whether Birtch will seek a third term as mayor in this fall’s municipal election.

dcarruthers@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/DaleatLFPress

FOR THOSE SEEKING HELP
Anova’s 24-hour crisis line: 519-642-3000 or 1-800-265-1576

London Abused Women’s Centre: 519-432-2204