David Norton leaves the London courthouse after pleading guilty to sexual interference, February 28, 2018. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Priest Molested Boy During Camping Trips, Sleepovers

A retired Anglican priest who used sleepovers and camping trips as an opportunity to molest a young boy over a four year period more than two decades ago is a step closer to learning his sentence.

On Wednesday, David Norton returned to the London courthouse where details of the sexual abuse he inflicted on the young boy from 1991 to 1995 were outlined. The disturbing facts came to light one week after the 72-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of sexual interference involving the boy, who is now 34-years-old. The boy’s identity is protected under a court order.

Assistant Crown attorney Chris Heron told the court the relationship between Norton and the boy began in the summer of 1991 when the boy’s mother was seeking a positive male role model for her 9-year-old son. She looked to Norton, the priest at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, believing he could provide the boy with the healthy male relationship she could not offer.

Norton accepted and began inviting the boy to his house for sleepovers on Fridays and Saturdays and taking him on camping trips across the province in his travel trailer pulled by his 1986 Mazda truck. During this time, they would go skinny dipping and sleep in the same bed, “spooning” because Norton had told the boy that would keep them warm.

Norton began fondling the boy and that soon escalated to further sexual activities, which included masturbation.

The boy learned how to drive and French kiss from Norton, but when doing either activity the priest would perform sexual acts.

The sexual abuse continued until 1995 when the boy was 13-years-old. His schoolmates teased him about his relationship with Norton, so the boy began making excuses not to see the priest and eventually told his mother he no longer wanted to continue his relationship with him.

The boy kept the sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of Norton a secret until 2015. He decided to come forward after learning Norton had been charged with sexual assault offences involving other children. Those charges, which include seven counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault involving three indigenous boys, will be dealt with at a trial scheduled to begin April 16.

Norton’s defence lawyer, Gord Cudmore, told the court his client agreed with the statement of facts read Wednesday and noted that there was never any “physical violence” against the boy.

Speaking to reporters outside of the courthouse, Cudmore offered some clarity to those remarks.

“By definition, any sexual assault or sexual interference is a form of physical violence and we concede that and I’m not trying to deny that,” said Cudmore. “All I was saying was beyond that physical violence there was no other gratuitous or extraneous violence that we sometimes see in these cases.”

Cudmore said that Norton’s guilty plea shows he is both accepting responsibility and expressing remorse for his actions.

Victim impact statements and a pre-sentence report will be delivered at a sentencing hearing scheduled for May 23.

Norton served as a priest at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church on the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation in 1977 and retired from the Anglican Diocese of Huron in 2011. He also was an award-winning professor at King’s University ­College at Western University, specializing in First Nations history.