tom ellison

CBC News - Jan 26, 2007

A former Vancouver high school teacher convicted of committing sex crimes against his students more than 25 years ago was given a conditional sentence Friday and will not be sent to jail.

Tom Ellison, 63, was found guilty in December of five out of 16 sexual misconduct charges stemming from incidents involving some of his female students in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while he ran the Quest outdoor education program.

It took less than an hour for Judge Mark Takahashi to deliver his sentence of two years less a day to be served under house arrest and 60 hours of community service.

Takahashi, who once described Ellison as a self-deluded narcissist, told the court that Ellison's actions were wrong, morally unacceptable and criminal. But he found Ellison had already suffered financial ruin, a damaged reputation and was no longer a threat to society.

Crown wanted two- to three-year sentence

Charges were laid after a dozen women filed complaints with police.

Earlier Friday, Crown prosecutor Ralph Keefer told the judge at a sentencing hearing in Vancouver provincial court that Ellison should spend some time in jail because of the "predatory, manipulative and destructive" nature of his crimes.

He said that the former Prince of Wales Secondary School teacher should be sentenced to at least two to three years, and that three to five years would also be fair.

Keefer also asked the judge to place Ellison on probation for 12 months after he gets out of prison, and that he be ordered to participate in a sexual offender program.

Four of Ellison's former students read victim impact statements to the court on Friday morning. They said their relationships with their former teacher caused years of psychological and emotional pain.

One woman said she also had a nervous breakdown while testifying against Ellison last year.

Ellison a complex man: defence

Ellison's lawyer, Richard Peck, told the judge his client didn't deserve to go to jail, describing him as an exemplary character.

He called Ellison a complex man, and said he should be given a conditional sentence because he has no previous convictions, and has led an honest life since the series of sex crimes during his time as a school teacher.

He read excerpts from 34 reference letters written on Ellison's behalf.

Some were former male students who say Ellison was a inspiring teacher who awakened their minds and transformed their lives.

Others were from people he had met during the past 20 years while running his eco-tourism business along the B.C. coast. They noted that Ellison has helped people living in remote communities by delivering groceries for free.

Probe into school continues

Meanwhile, the investigation continues. Vancouver police say more than a dozen new tips have come in since last September, when the original allegations became public.

The tips involve allegations not only against Ellison, but against other teachers who taught at Prince of Wales in the 1970s and '80s, police spokesman Const. Tim Fanning said.

"This is a serious investigation. We are sitting down with all these people and going through the information," he said.

While police have not issued specific names, two other former Quest teachers are under investigation by the B.C. College of Teachers. The Vancouver School Board is also conducting a review.