Former Kingston youth group leader found not guilty in sexual assault case
Warning: This article includes details of alleged sexual assaults and may be troubling for some readers. A list of local resources for victims of sexual assault can be found at the bottom of this page.
A former youth group leader at a church in downtown Kingston has been found not guilty after the allegations against him of grooming and two counts of sexual assault were heard in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The trial saw Crown attorney Rebecca Edward bring the allegations of the complainants – two brothers who will be referred to only as Complainant 1 (the older brother), and Complainant 2 (the younger brother), who were aged 13 or 14 and seven or eight, respectively, at the time of the alleged sexual assaults – before Justice Sally Gomery. The case was heard from October 3 to 7, 2022. Defence attorney Brian Callender argued that his client – Lance Lockwood, leader of the youth group at the former Queen Street United Church, where the complainants’ father had been the minister – maintained his innocence, and that there was simply not enough evidence against Lockwood for the judge to find him guilty.
The case centres on sexual assaults that are alleged to have occurred in 1983 or 1984, first at Lockwood’s Queen Street apartment just doors away from the church and rectory where the complainants lived and their father served as minister, and then again at the defendant’s new apartment. The Crown alleged the defendant groomed Complainant 1 for many months, beginning with spending time with him.
For the record, Lockwood was arrested on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Kingston Police announced Lockwood’s arrest the following day, disclosing that he had been charged in connection with historic sexual assault allegations. At the time, police said they were looking for any potential additional victims, noting that Lockwood had been affiliated with youth groups and teen events in Kingston in the early 1980s. Lockwood was arrested on a Canada-wide warrant after Kingston Police, with the assistance of Halifax Police, located the accused man in Nova Scotia. The court heard from Complainant 2 that he, too, had tracked Lockwood down and found that the man he accused of a single instance of sexual assault was living in Halifax.
To better understand the case against Lockwood, the following synopsis of his trial will move through the details chronologically.
Court documents state that in September of 1983, Lockwood was 35 years old and unmarried. At the time, he had “a full-time or near full-time contract working for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), after leaving long-term employment within the penitentiary system.”
“In addition to working for the CNIB, the defendant was involved with the Kingston Kinsmen club in 1983 and 1984, leading in its efforts to raise money to assist victims of famine in Ethiopia. He was also taking some courses at Queen’s University,” the factual evidence in Justice Gomery’s decision reads.
At the same time, the complainants’ family had just moved to Kingston, where the complainants’ father, a minister with the United Church of Canada, had secured a position as minister. In the summer of 1983, Complainant 1 was 13 years old, and Complainant 2 was seven.
Complainant 2 joined the youth group at the church, which Lockwood led. Complainant 2 was too young to do so at the time, court records state, noting that “due to the age gap between them and differences in their personalities,” the two brothers were “not close.” The youth group met weekly on Sundays; therefore, Complainant 1 spent time with Lockwood at least once a week.
Lockwood became a social acquaintance of the complainants’ family, sometimes sharing Sunday dinners with them, the court heard, though the accounts of all those who testified differed slightly. The complainants’ father became ill in late 1983 or early 1984 and was treated for severe depression. Around this time, Complainant 1 began spending more time with the defendant.
“Over the course of several months, [Complainant 1] regularly spent Saturday afternoons and evenings with the defendant and would stay overnight at his Queen Street apartment. This was done with the full approval of[Complainant 1]’s parents, who liked and trusted the defendant. The defendant and [Complainant 1] would go to see movies, watch television, walk the defendant’s dog, and eat together, either at local fast-food restaurants or at the defendant’s apartment,” court documents read.
“Both [Complainant 1] and the defendant testified that they enjoyed the time they spent together. [Complainant 1] did not have any friends his own age in Kingston and had fun when he was with the defendant.”
It was at Lockwood’s apartment that Complainant 1 alleges the defendant sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions; according to Complainant 1, over time there was an escalation in the acts which occurred in those instances. Complainant 2, who alleged Lockwood sexually assaulted him on one occasion, also claimed the assault occurred in Lockwood’s apartment during the one time he joined his brother for a sleepover there.
In his testimony, Complainant 1 asserted that the relationship between himself and Lockwood first involved sexual content in the form of pornographic magazines, which Complainant 1 said Lockwood had around his apartment. Lockwood did not deny having pornographic magazines in his home; he admitted on the stand that he kept these magazines around to aid him in projecting the image that he was heterosexual, though he had the magazines to see the naked men in them, he said, not expressly to deceive people with. Lockwood, the court learned, is actually homosexual, a fact he hid from others.
Complainant 1 testified that Lockwood’s sexual assaults progressed from touching over the clothing to touching under the clothing, and then eventually to escalating degrees of sexual assault. The complainant testified repeatedly that he did not tell anyone about the assaults because he felt shame and was worried that people might think he was gay because of the assaults. He also stated that he continued to spend time with Lockwood, both publicly and in private, because he didn’t want their friendship to end, and because he didn’t want his parents to find out what had been happening.
Both Complainant 1 and Complainant 2 testified about the allegations that Lockwood had sexually assaulted Complainant 2 on the one occasion he slept over at Lockwood’s apartment. Complainant 2’s testimony focused more on the effects the assault had on him later in life, but both brothers recounted Complainant 2 being in bed in “the small bedroom” of Lockwood’s apartment when the assault occurred – Complainant 1 was to sleep in the master bedroom with Lockwood that night, the court heard.
Both complainants testified that Lockwood was sexually assaulting Complainant 2 while he was in bed, possibly reading a book, when Complainant 1 came into the room from behind Lockwood, told him to stop, and pulled him from the room.
For his part, Lockwood testified that the assault on Complainant 2 – and, indeed, the multiple sexual assaults Complainant 1 alleged – did not occur.
Why the complainants’ family and Lockwood ceased communication is unclear, as testimony differed from those involved, however, the complainants’ mother and both complainants asserted that the complainants’ father and an elder of the church parish said Lockwood had been asked to leave church. It was then that the sleepovers at Lockwood’s apartment stopped, Complainant 1 testified; however, on one occasion, Lockwood attempted to restart the sexual aspect of their relationship. By that point, Complainant 1 was angry with the defendant and, he testified, did not have contact with the defendant again.
Over the next decades, information about the alleged assaults would leak from both complainants, both of whom, when speaking to their parents about the allegations, used the phrasing that Lockwood had “got to them.” It was Complainant 2’s disclosure to family that Lockwood had sexually assaulted him which led him to eventually contact Calgary Police (Complainant 2 lived in Calgary at the time). Subsequently, Calgary Police followed up with Kingston Police, who followed up with both complainants. Complainant 2 had, by that time, located Lockwood in Nova Scotia.
Lockwood denied all allegations made by the brothers, apart from those concerning his possession of pornographic magazines. He asserted in court that he was not asked to leave the church, though he acknowledged that his relocating from his Queen Street apartment to an apartment on Bath Road “had something to do with the church.”
Justice Gomery’s findings state, “[Lockwood] was not getting along with [the church’s] administration over a project. As well, congregations in the United Church were debating whether they would welcome gay ministers or bless same sex marriages. The defendant realized that his fellow Queen Street United parishioners had bigoted views and would not welcome anyone who was openly gay, and so he decided to leave. He had no recollection of being kicked out.”
Further, “the defendant stated that he has no sexual or romantic interest in women, because he knew from a very early age that he is gay. He sometimes invited a female friend, Jane, to accompany him to events. He admitted that he may have given others, and even Jane herself, the impression that she was his girlfriend, to deflect their attention from any suggestion that he was gay. In cross-examination, he admitted that he tried to get everyone to believe that he was heterosexual.”
Lockwood testified that he left Kingston in late 1985 or early 1986. He said he did not recall any attempt by Complainant 2 to contact him when he was in Nova Scotia.
With the case laid out before her, Justice Gomery explained that it was her charge to determine if the Crown had proved that Lockwood sexually assaulted the complainants.
“My task is not to weigh each complainant’s evidence with the defendant’s evidence and decide who is more likely to be telling the truth. I must decide if, having reviewed all the evidence, including the testimony of the defendant and the complainants, I have reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty,” Gomery stated.
“It is accordingly not enough for me to conclude that the complainants’ accounts are plausible, or that they are sincere, or that the sexual assaults that they described may have happened or probably happened. I must be absolutely certain that the sexual assaults happened to find the defendant guilty of the charges. I can only have this level of certainty if I conclude that I do not believe the defendant’s testimony, and [if] I am not left in doubt about the allegations based on the whole of his evidence or on the other evidence presented at trial.”
The Crown argued that, with regard to Complainant 2, this was a “classic case of grooming,” and the judge acknowledged that she found no reason or motivation for either complainant to have fabricated their allegations. However, Gomery pointed to inconsistencies in Complainant 1’s testimony, as well as in both complainants’ recounting of conversations between them about the alleged assaults. She also noted that both complainants had referred to having blocked out memories of the assaults, which returned when they began discussing the allegations – though Gomery did not say, when pointing out the returning memories, whether that meant anything fundamental to the case.
“Serious inconsistencies in a complainant’s evidence may give rise to reasonable doubt,” Gomery’s finding reads.
“In this particular case, the inconsistencies I have mentioned in [Complainant 1]’s evidence undermine his overall reliability,” she continued. “They do not bear on trivial issues but on issues that go to the heart of the Crown’s case: that is, the defendant’s alleged grooming of [Complainant 1] by deliberately exposing him to pornography, and the extent to which he and [Complainant 2] may have discussed their allegations prior to the trial.”
“I am also troubled by [Complainant 1]’s conviction that he witnessed the defendant sexually assaulting his brother. I have concluded that his account of this incident is implausible, and yet [Complainant 1] appeared sincere and genuine when he testified about it.”
Gomery found that the Crown’s cases of the defendant’s sexual assaults — of both complainants — had “failed.”
“As I said at the outset, I cannot find a person guilty unless I am sure that they have committed the crimes with which they have been charged,” Justice Gomery concluded. “The Crown has not established its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Lockwood, I find you not guilty of the charges. You are free to go.”
Anyone who may be experiencing sexual assault or abuse should reach out to Kingston Police (613-549-4660 ext.0) in case of emergency or to pursue legal action. The following is a list of local resources and supports for victims of sexual assault or abuse:
- Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) Kingston
Crisis line: 1-877-544-6424
- Kingston Interval House
- Resolve Counselling Services Canada
- KFACC (Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee)
- Victim Services of Kingston and Frontenac (613-548-4834)
- Addiction & Mental Health Services – Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington
- Ministry of the Attorney General – Violence in the Family
- Ministry of the Attorney General – Victim Services Directory
- Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres