While victims of abuse by a former Oshawa Scouts leader call his sentencing of house arrest a “slap in the face,” police worry the sentencing might deter more people from coming forward.
Mark Brown, 65, was sentenced to two years’ house arrest after pleading guilty in January to nine counts of indecent assault against boys nearly 40 years ago.
One of Brown’s victims spoke with CBC News. He is now in his 40s, but was a youth in scouts when he knew Brown.
“I was sleeping at the time when he entered my sleeping bag and attempted to get my hand to touch him,” he said.
When police confronted Brown initially in the 1980s, he did not deny the allegations. He was told to get counselling.
But two years ago, Brown was arrested and later pleaded guilty to assaulting nine boys during the 1970s and 1980s.
Brown was never charged, but Scouts Canada cut all ties with him. Since that time he has been involved in the sport community in Whitby, Ont., working as president of the Whitby Warriors Lacrosse team, in Iroquois Park. Later he was inducted into the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame — an honour which was later rescinded.
During the trial, more than a dozen letters were presented to the court describing Brown as a caring professional who never did or said anything unseemly.
Breaking the silence
For some of the victims it has taken nearly 40 years to find the courage to break their silence.
“Well I would hope everybody finds the courage to come forward…,” one emotional victim said. “It’s not easy. This is harder than I thought.”
And for many, it feels like it will only get harder following a sentencing Friday that the victims find quite lax considering the Crown had asked for a two-year jail sentence.
Det. Cory Briese, of the Durham Regional Police sexual assault and child abuse unit, said sentences like this always come along with concern about having other victims come forward.
“There’s always that fear when people look at the outcome,” Briese said. “This may deter people from coming forward.
Brown’s lawyer, Tom Balka, said house arrest is still a fair and significant sentence.
“I think that there are some people who are disappointed but ultimately it’s still a significant response to what he did, given the circumstances and given all of the things he’s done to atone for his crimes and to make it up by being a contributing member of the community,” Balka said.
However, for Brown’s victims, the sentence is like a slap in the face.
“Multiple victims on multiple occasions, systematically groomed and taken advantage of, and this man gets to sit on his couch, watching Netflix and eat barbecued steak,” another victim said.
“It’s disgusting. I’m sickened.”
Brown is allowed to leave his home 25 hours a week to run his sporting goods store, Blades, a place frequented by people of all ages — including young boys.
One man said he is not giving up, but plans to fight for changes to the justice system, adding that he and some other victims are also launching a civil suit against Brown.