Volume 92, Issue 28

Friday, October 23, 1998



Charges withdrawn on former Western prof

By Becky Somerville
Gazette Staff

Child pornography charges against former Western professor Donald Lecraw were withdrawn Tuesday, after the Ontario Court determined there were no reasonable grounds for conviction.

Staff Sgt. Ken Heslop, of the London police, said pornographic photographs of children were turned into the Children's Aid Society and ultimately lead to Lecraw's arrest, Nov. 16, 1994.

According to Mike Epstein, Lecraw's lawyer, the police were simply doing their job when Lecraw was charged. "At the time, it was reasonable to charge him," he said.

"I'm delited that the charges were withdrawn," he added.

Assistant Crown attorney Mary Potter, who withdrew the charges on Tuesday, said Lecraw was charged with possession of child pornography, which is outlined in the Criminal Code to be a photograph, video, film or graphic representation which "shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of 18 years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity."

Potter explained it was difficult to determine the age of those in the photographs, due to the fact many of them were taken in the Philippines or Malaysia and because of the subject's descent, the same age-defining methods could not be used.

"It became clear that we couldn't prove the age requirement set out in the Criminal Code," Potter said.

She explained the court sought an expert opinion to discern the age of those in the photographs as did defence lawyer Mike Epstein. "You can't apply North American testing methods to people of a different race," Potter said.

Epstein assembled further evidence, including videotapes of some of the females in Lecraw's photographs holding birth certificates to prove their age, Potter said.

"The key element that we came to the conclusion that we were lacking is proof that the females in the photos were under 18."

According to Epstein, the defence presented the Crown attorney with enough evidence to prove the women in the pictures were not underage.

"We supplied birth certificates, video, photographs, licences and even a scientific analysis – it became clear that there was no reasonable chance of conviction."

A video tape showing six of the women in the photographs swearing to a Philippine lawyer that they were 18 at the time the pictures had been taken was also shown.

Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer said he was unfamiliar as to the reaction of Western in 1994 when Lecraw was arrested. "The charges were withdrawn," he said. "I guess that speaks for itself."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998