Skip to content

West Van school counsellor who downloaded naked photos of girls should go to jail, says lawyer for Crown

Defence lawyer has asked for a conditional discharge, saying his client has already lost his family and career
NVProv Courthouse001Kevin
A North Vancouver provincial court judge has reserved her sentence in a child pornography case to a later date.

A former West Vancouver school counsellor who used his school computer to view and print off photos of naked girls, then arranged the photos in a collage on his fridge, should go to jail for six months, a Crown prosecutor has argued.

The prosecutor asked for the jail term at a sentencing hearing Wednesday for Luke Lawson, 54, a former West Vancouver resident who taught at Mulgrave private school for almost two decades before his arrest on Sept. 24, 2020.

Lawson entered a guilty plea in November to a charge of possession of child pornography.

Crown prosecutor Victoria Hanna told the judge how police searched Lawson’s apartment under warrant in September 2020 after emails sent between his personal email account and his work email account at Mulgrave School prompted an investigation.

In Lawson’s apartment, police found a stack of over 100 printed images of naked girls between the ages of eight and 13 on his kitchen table, Hanna said, along with another 17 images of naked pre-pubescent and pubescent girls on his fridge. Similar images were found on Lawson’s cell phone and a work computer police searched at Mulgrave school, said Hanna.

Web pages open on that computer led to sites on “nudism and naturism” said the prosecutor.

Lawson had used that computer to view images saved on his yahoo email account, then enlarged the photos and cropped out backgrounds to focus exclusively on the girls’ naked bodies, before using a school printer to print them off, said Hanna.

Hanna said Lawson should get jail time to show the seriousness with which the courts view child pornography and to acknowledge sexualized images of children are “inherently harmful.”

While Lawson didn’t know any of the girls in the pictures, it’s disturbing to consider he would go off to his teaching job each morning having just viewed the sexualized images of girls on his fridge, said Hanna. “This is a man who was in a position of trust and authority.”

Lawson’s lawyer, Mark Slay, asked the judge to consider a conditional discharge combined with probation – meaning Lawson would avoid a criminal record – in light of Lawson’s remorse and the high personal price he has already paid.

Slay said unlike many cases of child pornography, the images of children did not depict any sex and were at the “lowest end” of child pornography cases.

Slay said Lawson’s “maladjustment” to the COVID pandemic also played a role in the offences, as Lawson was isolated from friends and family at the time “and ended up being drawn to these sites” which featured nudists, rather than pornography.

Before he was arrested, Lawson had an unblemished record at the school and was popular with students and parents, said Slay.

Since his arrest, Lawson has lost his career, his family and has struggled with depression, said Slay, adding the case was one where “exceptional circumstances” could be considered.

Lawson, who moved to PEI before entering his guilty plea in November, appeared by video at the sentencing hearing.

“I’m so sorry,” he told the judge, adding he wants to take responsibility for his actions. “I just want to move on with my life. I want to use the tools and skills I have to do something good.”

A Charlottetown-based psychiatrist who met with Lawson described him in a report as presenting no risk to children.

The psychiatrist said Lawson is not a pedophile, but had a “transient pedophilic attraction” to girls as a result of “maladjustment to COVID circumstances which exerted on him considerable psychological duress, which in turn brought about an alteration in his state of mind.”

Hanna took issue with the psychiatrist’s report, telling the judge it appeared to be based entirely on self-reporting by Lawson without any independent testing or assessment.

The psychiatrist never saw the photos but described them as showing girls in "natural poses" in "peaceful indoor and outdoor settings," she said. “We know that’s wrong,” she added.

“Very clearly, Mr. Lawson wasn’t being entirely upfront with his psychologist.”

Judge Patricia Janzen has reserved her decision to a later date.

She has ordered that Lawson be present in North Vancouver provincial court on the day he is sentenced.


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks