Prominent Toronto pastor found not guilty of historic Kings County sex charges

Published on January 31, 2017

Rev. Dr. Brent Leroy Hawkes speaks with the media after being found not guilty of two historic sex-related charges dating from the mid 1970’s.

©Kirk Starratt

KENTVILLE, NS - There were audible exclamations from supporters of Rev. Dr. Brent Leroy Hawkes inside the courtroom as he was found not guilty of two historic sex charges.

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. - Rev. Dr. Brent Leroy Hawkes

66-year-old Hawkes was charged with indecent assault and committing an act of gross indecency involving oral sex.  It had been alleged that Hawkes committed the offences in Greenwood in the mid 1970’s. He was charged under the Criminal Code of Canada as it was written between 1970 and 1982. Kings RCMP filed charges against Hawkes in December 2015.

Hawkes, a well known Toronto pastor and Order of Canada recipient, read a prepared statement to the media following the decision. He said he wanted to thank his lawyers, Clayton Ruby and Annamaria Enenajor, his family, partner John and friends for their support. He also thanked Judge Alan Tufts for the decision.

“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,” Hawkes said, pointing out that he had to catch a flight and would not be taking questions.

Doug Elliott, chairman of the Brent Hawkes Support Fund, said they were able to raise more than $100,000 for Hawkes’ defence through voluntary donations. No tax receipts were issued. He said many people in the community are very grateful for the human rights work Hawkes has done over the years.

Elliott said they want to thank everyone who provided financial and emotional support. He said he believes Hawkes’ reputation has been cleared and this was a “terrible burden” for anyone to go through.

“It was our view from the beginning that this is a case that should never have been brought to trial,” Elliott said.

He said the evidence was “very weak” and, as Tufts said in delivering a summary of his decision, “it’s not clear what happened that night.” Elliott later called the case “tissue thin.”

“We hope that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia will not have to be burdened by any further expense with respect to this unwise proceeding,” Elliott said.

In delivering a summary of his 59-page written decision, Judge Tufts said 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 in the spring of 1976.

A publication ban protects the identities of the complainant and witnesses. Tufts said he found the first Crown witness to be “credible and believable”. The man had testified that a group of people were sitting in Hawkes’ living room on the night in question. The man said he was talking to someone in front of him when he looked to the left and saw Hawkes performing oral sex on the alleged victim.

Tufts said the complainant “disputes and denies” what the witness testified he saw in Hawkes’ living room that evening. The alleged victim recalled it happening in a bedroom. Tufts said this inconsistency undermines the reliability of the complainant’s testimony.

Tufts said the state of intoxication at the time of the alleged offences described by the complainant in his own words “undermines, in my opinion, the vivid details he said he recalls from that evening.”

“Also, the process he described in eventually remembering the detail he described strongly suggests he reconstructed or recreated the events which occurred, again, seriously reducing my confidence in the reliability of his recall of the subject events,” Tufts said.

The judge said he has identified other frailties in the complainant’s testimony, which he expanded on in the written decision.

“After a closer examination of all of the evidence, the complainant’s account does not have the compelling features it appears at first to have. In my opinion, his testimony is not sufficiently reliable even together with all the other evidence to satisfy the criminal burden of proof,” Tufts said.


Did you know?

-       Hawkes is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Church of Toronto.

-       He officiated for the funeral of federal NDP leader Jack Layton in 2011.

-       Hawkes received the Order of Canada in 2007 for his stand on social justice and human rights with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities.