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Former Liberal candidate handed 240-day conditional sentence

Gerry Hawes, 59, will be under house arrest for eight months and also be on probation for 24 months following conviction for accessing child pornography
gerry hawes headshot 2019
Gerry Hawes is shown in a file photo.

Gerry Hawes managed to elude a jail sentence on a charge of accessing child pornography, but he was ordered to spend the next eight months locked up in his own home.

The 59-year-old Orillia man who was active in the Liberal party, and ran as the candidate for Simcoe North in the last federal election, was handed a 240-day conditional sentence and 24 months probation during a sentencing hearing Thursday. The Crown had asked for a 90-day jail sentence.

Hawes attended the “hybrid” hearing at the Barrie courthouse, as did the Crown attorney, but the judge and defence lawyer appeared via a Zoom video conference feed.

Hawes pleaded guilty during an earlier appearance to accessing child pornography. A charge of possessing child pornography was dropped following the sentencing Thursday.

Images believed to be child pornography were traced to the Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned to Hawes early last year, according to the admitted statement of facts. His laptop was seized during an OPP investigation and a forensic analysis found images on the inaccessible web browser Firefox cache.

Police were only able to say the images were accessed by the user but not if they were intentionally downloaded and saved.

The children in the sexually explicit photos ranged in age from 10 years old to 17, court heard.

In her written decision, Justice Angela McLeod said the fact that there were very few images, that he pleaded guilty early on and his genuine expression of remorse were among the mitigating factors in sentencing along with the “collateral consequences suffered by Mr. Hawes” since he was charged.

She observed that he’s had counselling for major depression and has been undergoing treatment since August 2020.

“I take judicial notice that were Mr. Hawes to be incarcerated, he would not receive any treatment or counselling in a provincial institution. If he remains in the community, he will continue with his psychiatric treatment. This serves to address the safety of the community in the long run,” she wrote in the decision. “I find that the circumstances of this defendant and of his crime (such a low number of images) are indeed exceptional.”

The conditional sentence means Hawes will have to remain in or on his property, with some exceptions such as medical and legal appointments and work. He was also ordered not to access the internet during that time, except for work purposes.

“I’m a writer, I hope to be able to do research,” Hawes said in Barrie court to clarify the restriction. 

Justice McLeod confirmed that does constitute work.

He was also ordered not to communicate with those under the age of 16.

His lawyer, Mitch Eisen, said Hawes has “lost everything” as a result of the conviction.

The message, he said, is to stay away from child pornography.

“The courts take it extremely seriously. This may be a conditional sentence, he’s not going to go inside a real jail unless he breaches it, but it’s an extremely difficult sentence to spend eight months under house arrest.

“He has lost his job…. The impact is huge, his whole life is destroyed.”

Hawes had been working for 12 years with the provincial government as a senior policy advisor.

Eisen said there’s a risk Hawes may lose his home and he can never be involved in politics again or return to community service.


About the Author: Marg. Bruineman

Marg. Buineman is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering justice issues based out of BarrieToday. The LJI is funded by the government of Canada
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