Woodstock, Ont. mayor charged with assault, sexual assault: court documents

The mayor of Woodstock, Ont. will appear in court in May after he was charged last week with sexual assault and assault connected to allegations dating back to last year, according to court documents obtained by Global News.

London police arrested Trevor Birtch, 46, on Wednesday, charging him with one count of assault and two counts of sexual assault, including one of sexual assault with choking, the documents show.

The charges involve the same female complainant, according to the documents.

According to the court documents, Birtch is accused of sexually assaulting the complainant on Valentine’s Day 2021, and is accused of assaulting her sometime between June 1 and Sept. 30. He is also accused of having sexually assaulted the complainant with choking sometime between Dec. 10 and 13.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

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Birtch was released by London police with an undertaking on Wednesday, and will make his first court appearance on May 2. The charges were officially sworn in on Thursday, the same day Birtch chaired a city council meeting.

As part of the undertaking, Birtch is ordered not to communicate with three people, including the alleged victim, or be within 100 metres of their known places of residence, education, or employment.

He must also not possess any firearms or weapons, and was ordered to turn over all firearms in his possession to London police upon his release.

Global News reached out to Birtch for comment on Monday but did not receive a response by publication time.

In a statement, Connie Lauder, Woodstock’s acting mayor, said Monday that members of city council had been made aware of Birtch’s charges for “alleged serious personal actions.”

“This is a matter for Mayor Birtch to respond to through the court proceedings. Under our system of justice an accused receives the benefit of doubt unless and until convicted,” Lauder said.

Lauder added that, under the province’s municipal act, there is no requirement for an elected official accused of a crime to step down from service. Only when an official is sentenced to jail time does it disqualify them from serving.

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Speaking with Global News, David Creery, Woodstock’s chief administrative officer, said Birtch had not yet conveyed to city officials whether he planned to attend future council meetings amid his ongoing criminal proceedings.

Should Birtch not attend council, Acting Mayor Lauder would perform the duties of mayor, he said. The role of acting mayor in Woodstock is similar to that of deputy mayor in other municipalities. A new acting mayor is appointed every year by members of council.

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Birtch was first elected Woodstock’s mayor in 2014 when he defeated then-Mayor Pat Sobeski with 40 per cent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2018 with 58.7 per cent of the vote.

In addition to his role as Woodstock mayor, Birtch also serves as vice-chair of the Woodstock Police Services Board, and is one of two council appointees.

Police board members will meet this week to discuss the charges against Birtch, according to the London Free Press.

Global News has reached out to Woodstock police and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) for comment.

The OCPC is an adjudicative body that “hears appeals, adjudicates applications, conducts investigations and resolves disputes regarding the oversight and provision of policing services,” according to the Tribunals Ontario website.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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