Toronto pastor Hawkes found not guilty of gross indecency, indecent assault
Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 31, 2017 5:26AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 1, 2017 12:55PM EST
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.