Sentence needs to be a strong deterrent to others in manslaughter of vulnerable victim

TORONTO, Feb. 14, 2013 /CNW/ - Community Living Ontario, representing over a hundred local associations across the province and 12,000 individuals and families of people who have intellectual disabilities awaits the sentencing of Jerry Hawley after his manslaughter conviction today by an Ontario jury.

"We now await a sentence that will be a strong deterrent as well as a strong message that society finds such crimes particularly abhorrent.  Vulnerable people who have disabilities need the protection of the law to ensure that they are equally valued," says Deborah Rollier, President of Community Living Ontario. "Abhorrent crimes such as that suffered by Jamie at the hands of his brother must be dealt with in no uncertain terms - it must deter such crimes," she says.

Jamie was a 41-year-old man who had an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and little mobility due to brain damage as an infant caused by an assault from a family member.  As a child he was institutionalized and later supported by Community Living associations.  Like anybody else, he wished to live in the community and have a family again.  It appears that Jamie placed his trust in his family to support him and in 2000 Jamie moved in with his brother, Jerry who became responsible for his care.

On May 26, 2008, Jamie died under Jerry's care. Jamie was neglected to death: at the time of his death he weighed 57 pounds, suffering from starvation.  He died in his own feces with 33 infected bedsores and pneumonia, confined in a second-storey room in Jerry's house.

Jamie's disability made it impossible for him to defend himself or to withdraw from the intentionally negligent behaviour of his brother, whom he ought to have been able to rely on for seeing that his needs were met. Jamie's tragic death is a reminder that people with disabilities face increased risk of being victims of abuse and neglect—even at the hands of those they trust.

Community Living Ontario commends the efforts of Crown Attorney Claudette Breault, as well as the Leeds Grenville OPP detachment for their thorough investigation and pursuit of justice in the abuse Jamie Hawley suffered at the hands of his brother, Jerry.

Jamie Hawley's death is just one of a number of similar horrific deaths over the last decade.  Legal precedence was established in 2008 when Allison Cox was found guilty, criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life in the death of her adopted sister, Tiffany Pinckney.  Mrs. Cox was sentenced to nine years in a penitentiary.

Jerry Hawley's undisputed responsibility for causing the truly horrible death of his brother Jamie by starvation and associated injuries has already been met with abhorrence by society, whether as represented by the community living movement or by the media and the general public. As his trial drew to a close, Jerry told the court that he was prepared to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter. However, the Crown continued to press the charge of second degree murder. A conviction for murder is a stronger expression of the abhorrence society has for such a crime.

The deterrence factor in the Hawley case is extremely important:  there is a serious need for this case to serve as a deterrent to others, including family members, from inflicting harm on persons with disabilities, especially when that harm culminated in their death.

As families and communities we mourn the death of Jamie Hawley—a man who had so much to share with the world. Even for those who did not know him personally, Jamie's death exposes vulnerabilities that move us deeply.

Community Living Ontario awaits justice for Jamie as well as a strong deterrence to others in order to protect the vulnerable and those who have disabilities.

SOURCE: Community Living Ontario

For further information:

Sheila Kirouac,
Interim Communications Director
Community Living Ontario
416-447-4348 x 223
skirouac@communitylivingontario.ca

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