Judge provides new information about allegations against former professor

·4 min read
Former professor Wayne John Hankey has been charged with sexual offences involving 3 male complainants. (CBC - image credit)
Former professor Wayne John Hankey has been charged with sexual offences involving 3 male complainants. (CBC - image credit)

A provincial court judge shed more light Monday morning on the allegations against former Halifax university professor Wayne Hankey.

Hankey, 77, faces three criminal trials involving three male complainants for offences including sexual assault, indecent assault and gross indecency. Hankey has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The allegations span the years between 1977 and 1988, and include incidents alleged to have occurred on the campus of the University of King's College, where Hankey taught for decades.

Judge Elizabeth Buckle delivered her decision last week to separate the trials of the second and third complainants, which were originally scheduled to be heard together. Due to technical difficulties and time constraints, she was not able to give her reasons last week, so she read her decision in court Monday.

Hankey's lawyer, Stan MacDonald, had argued the two cases should be heard separately because the facts were too dissimilar and he would use completely different defences in each. While consent will form the basis of the defence in one, the other will be defended on the basis of denial.

Incidents in shower, apartment

One of the cases involves a complainant who had known Hankey since he was a boy.

In the summer of 1977, before the complainant began his first year at King's, Hankey, then 32, invited the 18-year-old to go swimming at the campus pool.

"They would regularly shower together after swimming and would engage in horseplay, which did not involve physical contact," Buckle said.

"While they were in the shower, Mr. Hankey would turn the lights off and on, and on one occasion, touched [the complainant's] genitals with his hand."

Buckle said the complainant describes the contact as "out of the blue," as there had been no sexual conversation or touching before that.

Buckle said the complainant alleges he and Hankey swam together on occasion after that and "engaged in sexual activity" in the shower.

Once the complainant became a student, Hankey allowed him to study in his apartment on campus. The sexual activity continued once or twice a week throughout that academic year. Hankey moved away to study at Oxford in fall 1978, but when he returned in 1979, there was more such activity on several occasions, Buckle said.

The trial for the allegation involving that complainant is scheduled to take place June 6-10, 2022.

Incident in Hankey's office

The other case involved a single incident alleged to have occurred in September 1982.

The complainant, who was 18 at the time, says he went to Hankey's office on campus for a tutoring session, and during the session, Hankey edged his seat closer and then placed his hand on the complainant's leg and up his shorts, according to Buckle's decision.

"[The complainant] thought Mr. Hankey was going to touch his genitals but he did not actually touch them. [The complainant] jumped up and left and subsequently left the university."

The trial date for that allegation will be set this Friday.

Reasons for decision

Buckle said the Crown's reasons why the cases should be heard together — that there were similar circumstances, including the age, gender and status of the complainants; the age difference between the complainants and Hankey; Hankey's status; the physical contact; and the absence of conversation before the alleged contact — were "too generic."

"There is no distinctive pattern or distinctive similarity of circumstances that would allow me to define an improbability of coincidence," said the judge.

Buckle added that in deciding to separate the trials, she was "particularly influenced by the objectively justified desire of the accused" to testify at one trial but not the other. MacDonald has previously told the court Hankey may not testify at the trial involving the alleged incident in Hankey's office.

"The right of the accused to control his defence is an important one," Buckle said.

Incident in dorm room

The court also heard details for the first time Monday about the allegation that led to the first charge against Hankey, which was announced Feb. 1.

Buckle told the court the complainant, who was 23 at the time, alleges he was lying on his bed in his King's residence in March 1988, recovering from surgery, when Hankey, then 44, entered his room, straddled him on the bed and grabbed his buttocks and genitals.

"[The complainant] responded in obvious pain and Mr. Hankey left," Buckle said.

The trial for that complaint is scheduled to take place on March 3, 2022.

The Crown had planned to ask the court for permission to introduce facts from all three cases at each trial. After Buckle read her decision Monday, in which she said such an application would be unlikely to succeed, the Crown said it will no longer seek to do so.

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