The Toronto Sun
Supporters of pastor Brent Hawkes clapped and smiled when he was declared not guilty not guilty in a Nova Scotia courtroom of sex charges dating to the 1970s.
The prominent pastor at Toronto’s Metropolitan Community Church was cleared Tuesday of gross indecency in indecent assault charges.
Hawkes, a leader in the battle for gay rights in the early 1980s and a member of the Order of Canada, said he is grateful for the outcome and looks forward to getting back to serving his church.
Outside the courtroom, Hawkes thanked his supporters, family and the judge for his decision.
“I’m so glad this is over so that I return home and serve and my church and my community as best I can,” he said, reading from a small piece of paper.
The allegations — which Hawkes steadfastly denied — were made by a middle-aged man who told court he was 16 when Hawkes led him down a hallway naked during a drunken get-together at Hawkes’ trailer, and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom. Hawkes, who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral, was at the time a teacher in his mid-20s in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.
Provincial court Judge Alan Tufts handed down the verdict Tuesday in Kentville, N.S., saying he found significant inconsistencies in the testimony of the complainant.
Two other men testified they attended the get-together as teenagers, and one said he witnessed Hawkes performing oral sex on the complainant.
The judge said it’s not clear what happened in the bedroom that night.
“It’s easy to speculate, but that’s not something that’s permitted here,” Tufts said.
Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby said in his closing argument in November that the entire case will be remembered as weird, amid “an abundance of evidence” that the testimony of the witnesses was unreliable.
Ruby said the Crown had “many problems” proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, noting the alleged offences happened more than 40 years ago and that some witnesses testified they were drunk at the time.
Crown lawyer Bob Morrison called that level of detail “extrinsic,” saying the complainant recalled the important memories clearly.
Morrison also said Hawkes contradicted himself, noting that he said he didn’t serve alcohol to any students and was concerned about students drinking, but the evidence showed he allowed students to drink while they were at his trailer.
— With files from The Canadian Press
Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes found not guilty of gross indecency, assault
Published Tuesday, January 31, 2017 4:59AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 31, 2017 4:10PM EST
Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press
KENTVILLE, N.S. — The testimony of a man who claimed Brent Hawkes forced oral sex upon him more than 40 years ago was compelling but inconsistent, a Nova Scotia judge ruled Tuesday as he acquitted the prominent Toronto pastor.
“The complainant gave a very vivid and detailed account of what he alleged the accused did to him in the bedroom of the accused’s mobile home,” said Kentville provincial court Judge Alan Tufts.
“There are significant inconsistencies in the testimonies of the various witnesses. …In the end, it is not clear what happened in the bedroom that evening. It is easy to speculate, but that is something that is not permitted here.”
Hawkes, a high-profile rights activist who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral, was facing charges of gross indecency and indecent assault.
The complainant held his head down as the decision was read, while Hawkes clutched the hand of a loved one.
His supporters clapped and smiled when he was declared not guilty.
Outside the courtroom, Hawkes thanked his supporters and family.
“I’m so glad this is over so that I return home and serve my church and my community as best I can,” said Hawkes, reading from a small piece of paper and refusing to answer any questions.
The complainant did not speak as he left the courthouse.
But Crown lawyer Bob Morrison said the middle-aged man, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, was prepared for “any outcome.”
“He is aware that these historical sexual assault cases are difficult,” said Morrison outside of court.
“His attitude was… ‘I’m going to come forward. I’m going to say what happened to me. I’m going to tell the truth, and leave the rest up to the judge. So while he wanted to be here to hear the decision, he wasn’t caught up in what the decision was going to be and how it was going to impact his life.”
The allegations stemmed from events in the 1970s, when Hawkes was a teacher in his mid-20s in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.
The complainant told the court last November that he was 16 years old when Hawkes led him down a hallway naked during a drunken get-together at Hawkes’ trailer, and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom.
Two other men testified they attended the get-together as teenagers, and one said he witnessed Hawkes performing oral sex on the complainant in the living room. The complainant had disputed in his testimony that oral sex had taken place in the living room.
“This inconsistency undermines the reliability of the complainant’s testimony,” said Tufts in his 59-page decision.
“Furthermore, the very intoxicated state the complainant was apparently in… undermines, in my opinion, the vivid details he said he recalls about that evening.”
Tufts also said the process the complainant used to remember the details of the evening suggests he may have “reconstructed or recreated” the events — something Hawkes’ defence lawyer Clayton Ruby argued repeatedly during the trial.
Ruby was not present on Tuesday, but in a statement, he said: “We had a good hearing with a good judge and are delighted that Reverend Hawkes can now continue the selfless work that has shaped his contribution to society for over 40 years.”
Doug Elliott, chairman of the Brent Hawkes Support Fund, said outside court that support for the pastor has not wavered since he was charged.
“I think that his reputation has been cleared now,” said Elliott, adding that more than $100,000 was raised through donations for Hawkes’ legal fees.
“There are a lot of people in the community who are very grateful for the human rights work that has been done by Reverend Hawkes over the years… He is an outstanding citizen of our country and it is a shame what he has had to go through in connection with this proceeding.”
Originally from Bath, N.B., Hawkes is a high-profile rights activist who has been senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 38 years. He is known as a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, and in 2007 was appointed to the Order of Canada.
Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes found not guilty of sex crimes in Nova Scotia
Judge acquits on charges of gross indecency and indecent assault
Posted: Jan 31, 2017 7:50 AM AT Last Updated: Jan 31, 2017 4:22 PM AT
A Nova Scotia judge has found prominent Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes not guilty of sex crimes dating back to the 1970s.
Hawkes, a high-profile LGBT and human rights activist who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral in 2011, pleaded not guilty to charges of gross indecency and indecent assault.
As Judge Alan Tufts acquitted 66-year-old Hawkes Tuesday in Kentville provincial court, there were gasps in the packed courtroom and brief applause.
Tufts said the complainant in the case gave “vivid testimony” during the trial, but it was contradicted by other evidence. He said the testimony was not reliable enough to support a conviction.
The judge also said he didn’t believe all of Hawkes’s testimony, but the onus was on the Crown to prove its case.
‘Glad that this is over’
Outside court, Hawkes made a brief statement thanking his family, friends, lawyers and the judge.
“I am so glad that this is over so I can return home and serve my church and my community as best that I can,” he said.
He did not take questions from the media. His lawyer, Clayton Ruby, said it was a “good hearing with a good judge.” Hawkes, he said, can now “continue the selfless work that has shaped his contribution to society for over 40 years.”
The allegations against Hawkes date back to 1976, when he was a teacher in his 20s in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.
His trial heard emotional testimony from a middle-aged man who said Hawkes led him down a hallway naked during a drunken get-together at his trailer and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom when he was about 16 years old.
Hawkes denied the allegations during testimony in November.
Complainant had ‘healthy attitude’
Prosecutor Bob Morrison said the Crown intends to review the judge’s 53-page decision in detail before deciding whether to appeal.
The police investigation was thorough, he said, and the complainant had a “very healthy attitude.”
“He is aware that these historical sexual assault cases are difficult and so he was prepared for any outcome,” Morrison said.
“His attitude, and I thought it was a really healthy one, was: ‘I’m going to come forward, I’m going to say what happened to me, I’m going to tell the truth and leave the rest up to the judge.'”
Church pleased with ruling
Originally from Bath, N.B., Hawkes has been a senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for years.
In a statement, the church said it was pleased with Tuesday’s court decision.
“Our support for Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes as a man of the highest integrity has never wavered, based on our 40 wonderful years of experience with him as our senior pastor,” said Anne Brayley, the church’s vice-moderator and board chair.
Considered one of the spiritual leaders of Toronto’s gay community, he is also known as a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage and in 2007 was appointed to the Order of Canada.
‘Probability’ there was sexual activity
In his decision, Tufts said a “great deal” of Hawkes’s testimony at trial was contradicted by other witnesses and he did not believe the accused.
But while there was a “likelihood or even a probability” that some sexual activity happened in the bedroom, the judge said he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
He said the complainant was intoxicated that night, and his testimony did not add up in key places with that of two witnesses and other evidence.
“We simply do not know how much is his true memory of what he actually recalled as opposed to what he may have recreated or reconstructed,” Tufts said.
“I say this with the greatest respect to [the complainant] because I do not want to diminish the real pain I witnessed when he testified.”
He noted that when the man was interviewed by police, he simply read what he had prepared for his therapy sessions. Tufts said his therapy sessions were understandably centred around how he felt, rather than the accuracy of his account.
With files from the CBC’s Blair Rhodes and The Canadian Press
Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes acquitted of sex charges
Charges related to an incident that allegedly occurred when Hawkes was a teacher in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley in the 1970s.
The Toronto Star
Tues., Jan. 31, 2017
A Nova Scotia judge has acquitted a prominent Toronto pastor of sex offence charges dating back four decades.
Rev. Brent Hawkes was found not guilty of indecent assault and gross indecency in a Kentville, N.S. court on Tuesday by Judge Alan Tufts, who said he found inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses.
Hawkes was a teacher in Annapolis Valley, N.S., in the 1970s, and the charges related to allegations made by men who were students at the time.
Hawkes had pleaded not guilty.
Outside the courtroom, Hawkes thanked his supporters, family and the judge for his decision.
“I’m so glad this is over so that I can return home and serve my church and my community as best I can,” he said.
Provincial court Judge Alan Tufts handed down the verdict Tuesday in Kentville, N.S., saying he found significant inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses.
“It’s easy to speculate,” said Tufts, “but that’s not something that’s permitted here.”
Douglas Elliott, a Toronto lawyer and the chair of the Brent Hawkes Support Fund was in court to support Hawkes Tuesday.
“It was very emotional,” said Elliott, “There were a lot of tears from Brent and everyone else. It’s been tough.”
Elliott criticised the crown for taking the case forward because “this case never stood a chance,” he said, adding the trial has taken a physical and emotional toll on Hawkes.
“It was a terrible case and why would it bring such a weak case that’s 40 years old against a man who’s clearly not a menace to the public?”
Elliott also expressed concern for victims of sexual assault who may see this case and decide not to pursue legal action out of fear for a similar result.
“When the legal system takes forward a bad case that’s doomed to failure and it crashes and burns, well then people with strong cases are afraid to step forward.”
In a statement from the board of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC), Anne Brayley, the board chair, wrote they are “pleased to have this matter settled with a positive outcome for our Senior Pastor.”
Rev. Rachelle Brown, the interim moderator at MCC said she wasn’t surprised by the outcome.
“For people who know and care about Brent this is a confirmation of what they have believed to be true all along. That Brent is a man of incredible character..”
During his trial, one witness told the court that Hawkes had encouraged a number of teens to strip at an alcohol-fuelled party in his trailer, before taking him to a bedroom for sex.
Hawkes was a highly respected activist and pastor, who championed human rights for decades. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2007, was the grand marshal of the WorldPride Parade three years ago in Toronto and officiated NDP leader Jack Layton’s funeral.
His activism has seen him chained to the legislature in protest, beaten by police and on a hunger strike for 25 days to protest the bathhouse raids of 1981.
Born in Bath, N.B., to a Baptist family in 1950, Hawkes came to Toronto in 1977, becoming the pastor of the gay-friendly MCC.
The criminal charges against him came as a shock to his community and people who know him.
In a statement at the time of the charges, Hawkes wrote, “I want to be crystal clear: I am innocent of these allegations. The purported events simply did not take place.
— With files from the Canadian Press and Toronto Star staff
I pray for the victim in this case and I have nothing but respect for his courage in coming forward to tell his truth. Hawkes knows what happened and he will face that reality on his death bed.
“It’s not what I remember, it’s what I cannot forget” – most important testimony that came out of this trial. Truer words were never spoken.