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Hurst found guilty of three of five sexual assault charges

Jury never heard that earlier this summer Hurst was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and three counts of committing an indecent act for offences dating back more than 20 years
Michael Hurst leaves the courthouse during a break last Monday. He was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault and not guilty of two others.

*Warning: this story contains elements that some may find triggering.

*Editor's note: A publication ban covers any information that might identify the victims in this case, including many details of the incidents themselves.

A Palmerston man has been convicted of sexual assault for the second time in the past three months.

Following a week-long trial, a jury found Michael Bradley Hurst, 46, guilty of three counts of sexual assault for incidents that happened between 2017 and 2020, largely within Wellington North.

Each of those charges involved the unwanted touching of women’s buttocks and breasts.

Hurst was found not guilty of two additional charges related to oral sex and intercourse involving one of the complainants.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 19. That date was chosen to allow a “relatively recent” pre-sentencing report – as defence attorney Mary Murphy put it – to be updated.

Much of the evidence presented in the case, which was heard in Guelph, is covered by a publication ban aimed at protecting the identities of the complainants. 

Beyond the testimony of the two complainants and Hurst, no other evidence was presented during the trial.

One of the complainants testified Hurst grabbed and squeezed her buttocks on two occasions. Another time Hurst reached under her shirt from behind and cupped her breasts. 

Hurst claimed to have touched only one of her breasts but denied touching her buttocks. However, he acknowledged cupping the back of her leg below the buttocks on one occasion.

The second complainant told the court Hurst twice touched her breast without consent. She further testified she felt pressured out of fear of potential repercussions and complied with Hurst’s requests for oral sex and intercourse.

He was found not guilty of the latter two accusations.

Hurst testified last Wednesday in his own defence, stating he believed the women to have flirted with him and therefore consented to his actions. He said one repeatedly brushed against him and smiled, while another wore a tight shirt and talked with him in a friendly fashion.

Many details of their interactions with Hurst aren’t in dispute – he confirmed several during his testimony but offered a different version of events for others.

The prime issue in dispute was whether the women consented to Hurst’s actions.

In order to convict, the jury must find Hurst knew the women didn’t consent; he was aware there was a risk they didn’t consent and failed to clarify with them in advance; or he was “wilfully blind” to a lack of consent, Petersen told the jury before deliberations began.

Consent, she continued, must be communicated in advance of each individual instance and the person must know what action is to follow.

If they’re not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury must acquit, Petersen noted.

Earlier this summer, Hurst was sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest and three years of probation after being found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and three counts of committing an indecent act for offences dating back more than 20 years.

A publication ban covers any information that might identify the victims in that case as well, including details of the incidents themselves.

The two sexual assaults involved Hurst climbing into bed with his adult victims.

The indecent acts involved masturbating in front of the victims while he thought they were sleeping.

The more recent set of charges, for which Hurst was convicted Monday, were laid prior to him being found guilty of the earlier sexual assaults and indecent acts.

Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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