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Former West Vancouver private school counsellor pleads guilty to child pornography charge

Staff member kept collage on his fridge, North Vancouver court hears
Mulgrave School in West Vancouver. | North Shore News files

A former West Vancouver private school counsellor has pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography.

Luke Lawson, 54, who worked at Mulgrave School for 18 years, appeared in North Vancouver provincial court via video to enter his plea on Nov. 2.

Lawson was arrested in September 2020 after a police executed a search warrant at his home and found images of pre-pubescent and pubescent girls, the court heard following his plea. He was suspended from the school immediately after.

The images were from family photos posted on nudist websites, but the pictures had been cropped to feature only the young girls.

“Some of them were displayed on the side of Mr. Lawson's fridge in a collage. And then there was more of the same images printed out in a stack on Mr. Lawson's kitchen table. And then there was additional media that was found on his computer,” said Crown lawyer Farah Malik.

At issue following the plea was whether Lawson should be the subject of a pre-sentence report and psychiatric assessment, both of which are intended to offer insight into an offender’s behaviour and character, and help the court arrive at a fitting sentence.

Malik told the judge she expects she and Lawson’s lawyer Mark Slay will be seeking sentences that are “quite far apart.”

Before he pleaded guilty, however, Lawson moved to Charlottetown, P.E.I., earlier in 2021, putting him out of reach of some of the B.C. court system’s usual services.

Slay has submitted reports from a Charlottetown-based psychiatrist, who concluded Lawson “represents no threat to children of any age, or gender at present in the past and in the future.”

But, Malik argued, the psychiatrist reached that conclusion using only information self-reported by Lawson.

As for a pre-sentence report, most of the information that would be included could also be submitted by the lawyers themselves, Slay argued.

None of the victims were students at Mulgrave and, likely, they were not even in Canada, he said. None of the images, he added, depicted any sexual acts, Slay said.

“The report will, in my submission, ultimately find that, in the scale of these offences, this is at the low end,” he said.

Judge Andrea Brownstone declined to order the psychiatric report, largely because P.E.I.’s justice system does not have the resources to provide one.

Instead, Brownstone ordered that a copy of the police report to Crown counsel be forwarded to Lawson’s psychiatrist so he can produce a new report that is based on more information than what Lawson has self-reported.

“I am declining to order a pre-sentence report and am satisfied that the court will have sufficient information before it on which it can craft a proper sentence,” she said.

A date for Lawson’s sentencing hearing has not yet been set.