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As Hawley Case Nears Completion, Serious Questions Remain

 

Jamie Hawley

 

For Immediate Release
February 14, 2013
Toronto


An Ontario jury decided today to make a conviction of manslaughter in the starvation death of Jamie Hawley. Jamie died in 2008 at the hands of Jerry Hawley—his brother and legal guardian. Jamie died in terrible conditions of neglect that indicated a long period of starvation and suffering. Jamie’s repulsive treatment at the hand of his brother is a wake-up call to Canadians that people with disabilities face increased risk of abuse and neglect and that society has a responsibility to report suspicions and concerns.
 
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. Jamie’s death calls urgent attention to the dangers of isolation and raises serious questions about the roles and responsibilities of individuals, communities and systems in protecting one another’s well-being.
 
Laurie Larson, President of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) said, “As a mother of two sons with disabilities, this appalling crime reaches too close to home. My sons are out and involved in their community a lot.  People see them, know them and care about them. If they suddenly weren't seen around, would anyone actually check in?  I don't know the answer for certain, but the possibility of no one taking action really, really bothers me."
 
While CACL is disheartened by the jury’s decision make a conviction for a lesser charge of manslaughter, it will monitor the case to see that sentencing reflects the seriousness of the crime and justice for Jamie.  Jerry Hawley had originally pleaded not guilty to the charge of second degree murder and later told the court that he would enter a guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter.  CACL commends the Crown for proceeding with a charge of second degree murder despite the changed plea.
 
Guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CACL is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy equal rights to live in safe and inclusive communities, free from exploitation, violence and abuse and must enjoy equal justice if those rights are violated.
“It is critical that sentencing sends a strong message about society’s abhorrence for such crimes,” said Michael Bach, Executive Vice President“It is equally critical that we move to questioning how Jamie’s death might have been prevented and how things went so horribly wrong.”
 
With criminal responsibility having been established by the courts, serious questions remain as to how Jamie’s death might have been prevented. Many have questioned how Jamie’s suffering was able to go on for so long unnoticed. His death exposes failures at every level that open a space for critical learning as to how we can better ensure and protect people’s rights. As a society we need to find better ways to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disabilities while at the same time ensuring that people’s dignity and freedom are protected.
 
Larson asks, "How do we get to a point that goes beyond simple community acceptance to being confident that people care enough to act when they suspect someone might be in danger?"
 
Laurie Larson is available for media inquiries or interviews, for more information contact the Canadian Association for Community Living at inform@cacl.ca or 416-661-9611.

To download a copy of this press release and others by CACL see our CACL in the News section of our website