McMaster professor found not guilty of sexually assaulting graduate student 

Edwin Thomas
January 12, 2023
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

The judge found the Crown unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the student did not consent because her testimony was unreliable and incredible 

CW: sexual harassment, sexual assault, grooming 

This article serves to provide an update piece to our previous court coverage of the McMaster University associate professor Scott Watter case. The content within this article may be upsetting or triggering as it deals with sexual harassment, sexual assault, grooming. For a list of resources, please see the bottom of the article. 

Watter has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a graduate student in a judge-only trial on December 15th. Justice Amanda Camara found the Crown unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the complainant did not consent to the physical acts. 

Silhouette staff attended the judgement hearing of R. v Scott Watter on Dec. 15.  

The complainant, a PhD student in the PNB department, alleged that Watter had sexually assaulted her on five occasions in 2017. Watter, her former undergraduate professor with whom she later developed a friendship with  during her PhD study, was charged with sexual assault and sexual assault causing bodily harm in mid-2020. 

Camara explained to the Hamilton court that the Crown was able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that four sexual acts occurred. However, evidence that the student did not consent to the acts did not meet the burden of proof. Camara also stated that the student was an unreliable and incredible witness due to inconsistencies between what she said to the police, to The Spectator, during testimony in the trial and in text messages between herself and Watter.  

Camara pointed to an example of contradicting narratives between the student’s testimony and text message exchanges between the student and Watter. 

“The issue is that [the complainant] testified that she was never interested in a romantic relationship with Dr. Watter, but text messages demonstrate she communicated about the progression of the romantic relationship and even talked about renting an apartment together,” said Camara. 

Camara stated that the inconsistencies, though they did not directly concern consent, dealt with witness credibility. She stated that she could not rely solely on the student’s testimony without corroboration from external evidence.  

Camara stated that the complainant could have a motive to fabricate, based on a statement she made about having the ability to ruin Watter’s life. 

Additionally, Camara explained that the Crown was not able to establish that Watter misused his dominant position to extract or persuade consent. 

“There is no doubt that the relationship was ill-advised, but there is not ground beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Camara. 

Moreover, the judge stated that the complainant appeared to control the narrative. Camara explained that during cross-examination, when explaining events that occurred, the complainant would also analyze reasons for inconsistencies from a psychological perspective, instead of solely explaining what occurred. Camara stated that in those instances, she was providing a testimony of expert opinion that she was not qualified to give during the hearings. 

“[The complainant’s testimony] appeared as if she had an agenda providing the details of her experience, rather than being a witness to an event who was providing this court with the most accurate record of what occurred,” said Camara. 

In an interview with the Hamilton Spectator, the victim stated that she was disappointed by the decision and that her case demonstrates flaws in the legal system that can protect the powerful and privileged. She also stated that she would use her experience to continue to help other sexual assault victims. 

Watter was placed on paid administrative leave during the trial. As of publication, McMaster has not made an official statement on Watter’s future employment status. 

If you are a survivor of sexual violence and need support, please see the following McMaster and Hamilton resources:  

Sexual Violence Intake Offices  

Sexual Violent Supports  

Author

  • Edwin Thomas

    Edwin is in his fourth year in the BHSc program. He has been part of the Sil since 2021 when he created the Behind the Beat miniseries for A&C and now reports on sustainability and environmental issues. Outside of the Sil, he can be seen shredding the guitar, baking or eating eggs benny at any given brunch spot in Hamilton.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2023 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.
magnifiercrossmenuarrow-right