Nova Scotia

Lawyer for former professor accused of sexual offences requests separate trials

The lawyer for former Halifax professor Wayne Hankey argued in provincial court Wednesday that two of the cases are too different to be tried together.

Wayne Hankey's lawyer argued Wednesday that two of the cases are too different to be tried together

Prof. Wayne Hankey is shown in 2014 at a luncheon for students. His lawyer, Stan MacDonald, argued in Halifax provincial court Wednesday to have two of the criminal cases against Hankey separated. (Dalhousie University)

The lawyer for a longtime Halifax professor accused of sexual assault argued in Halifax provincial court Wednesday morning that cases involving two different complainants should be tried separately.

Defence lawyer Stan MacDonald is representing former University of King's College professor Wayne John Hankey, 76, who is facing allegations of sexual assault, indecent assault and gross indecency involving three complainants.

Hankey has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, and the identities of the complainants are protected by a publication ban.

The first charge of sexual assault was announced on Feb.1, and involves an incident with a male complainant that took place in 1988 in student housing at King's, where Hankey taught for decades. That case is scheduled to go to trial in March 2022.

After the first charge was announced, two other complainants came forward, and police laid charges in April of indecent assault and gross indecency in each. 

One case involves a male complainant who alleges the incidents took place between 1977 and 1979. The other, involving a different male complainant, dates back to September 1982, and is alleged to have taken place on campus.

The trial for those two cases is scheduled for June 2022. But Hankey's lawyer wants them to be separated rather than tried together.

Arguments to separate trials

MacDonald argued that the cases are too different to be lumped together.

He said while the incidents involving one complainant took place over a span of more than two and a half years, the other was a single, very brief incident.

In the latter incident, Hankey is alleged to have placed his hand on the leg of a student he was tutoring.

According to Crown lawyer Carla Ball, "the hand went up the shorts to the knuckles until he jumped up and got out of there."

MacDonald said while the 1970s case involves complex legal issues relating to consent — which will be the basis of the defence — the 1982 case will be defended on the basis of denial.

In fact, MacDonald said, Hankey may not even testify in the case involving the 1982 allegation, or the defence may argue at trial that the incident in question was not a sexual assault.

MacDonald said the trial for the 1970s case is expected to take about four days, while the 1982 case will likely take half a day.

"I would submit, your honour … that you cannot find two allegations of sexual assault that could be more different than these two," MacDonald said.

Crown argues cases have similarities

The Crown wants the two cases to be heard together, arguing there is enough in common that it makes sense to do so.

Ball said the complainants in both cases are men who were substantially younger than Hankey, and whom Hankey had power over. The cases involved incidents that took place on campus, while the men were alone with Hankey "in the accused's domain."

In both cases, Ball said, the complainants did not anticipate that they would be touched sexually.

The judge, Elizabeth Buckle, is scheduled to deliver her decision on the severance application on Nov. 9.


Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at