Three former Bishop Allen Academy students sat quietly in the back of courtroom 125 of Old City Hall court, arriving just after their former English teacher Gerry McGilly pleaded guilty to two counts of child luring, a count of making child pornography and a count of sexual exploitation.
Defence attorney Erica Dann described the case as “prolonged and intense breaches of trust on the most vulnerable victims.”
The young women, whose identities are protected under a publication ban, said they were in court to see justice done. According to the agreed statement of facts read out in court, all three victims were 17 at the time and McGilly’s students between 2014 and 2017. But none of the girls were aware McGilly was preying on others.
McGilly who had been a teacher at Bishop Allen Academy since 2009 was arrested in October 2017 after a former student came forward alleging she had been lured online by her English teacher, and that the talk and exchange of photos turning sexual.
In November, McGilly was charged with 10 more counts after two other former students came forward. At that point, McGilly was out on $15,000 bail. The divorced father-of-four was no longer teaching, but on paid home assignment and living under house arrest with his sister in Etobicoke.
Court heard the first young woman to come forward was a student in McGilly’s English class between 2016 and 2017.
In May 2017, he reached out to her on her personal email account and told her they could talk privately through email or social media anytime she wanted, “off the record”. She experienced a significant mental health crisis in the second semester of that year and McGilly was aware of this. They began writing to each other on WhatsApp. She regarded McGilly as both a trusted teacher and a father figure.
McGilly, who would chat online with the student throughout the day and after school, began introducing sexual themes into the online chats, even sharing an erotic fiction story he wrote about an older man and a younger woman. Soon, they also began chatting over Snapchat and he began sending sexually-explicit pictures and by the summer of 2017, he sent several nude images of himself and images and videos of him masturbating and remarked he had been thinking of her. He also sent a photo of himself having sex with an adult woman who was a teacher known to the victim.
Eventually the student began to send naked photos of herself with his encouragement. The relationship ended in the summer of 2017 after she stopped contacting McGilly.
In a victim impact statement, the young woman wrote, “You told me that you were in love with me and I saw you as the father figure I never had. You told me that if I was still a virgin by the end of the summer, that you would take matters into your own hands.”
“Mr. McGilly has affected my life in ways that cannot be undone and I truly hope that all other girls that have been affected by his actions do not blame themselves,” she also said.
The second victim to come forward did so after she realized McGilly was arrested.
She met McGilly while studying at Bishop Allen in 2014. In January 2015, McGilly noticed her crying in class while writing an exam. He messaged her on Facebook shortly after that, sending her supportive messages.
In September 2015, when she returned to school for Grade 12, their online relationship continued and in late 2015, he suggested they switch from Facebook to a chat on Kik. Their chats soon became sexual.
McGilly began sending her adult pornography and asked if she would ever pose in the same manner as the women depicted. He then began sending sexually explicit pictures of himself, and pictures of him masturbating to pornography. He then asked her if she took nude photos of herself, which she had not done before. After he encouraged her to try it, the student sent approximately a dozen photos of herself naked.
In January 2016, McGilly picked the student up from a party and the two went back to his apartment and had sex. They had sex on multiple occasions after that, at least one of which took place when she was 17. Police also obtained photos that McGilly took of the two of them having sex and put them on his laptop. He photographed himself masturbating to them.
In both these cases, McGilly made it clear how important it was that no one find out about the relationship.
In her victim impact statement, this former student wrote, “Gerry, you spent months deceiving me. You played on my vulnerabilities for your own benefit. You let me believe that I was safe with you. You knew exactly what to do to get me to trust you and you betrayed me in every possible way.”
The third victim was also contacted by McGilly online in April 2017 on a text messaging application. It quickly turned sexual in nature and McGilly told her he felt aroused by the chat but she ended the conversation feeling uncomfortable.
Crown attorney Rebecca Law asked for a three-year jail term for the now 47-year-old while McGilly’s lawyer recommended a two–and-a-half-year sentence. Both agreed that he should be placed on the sex offender registry for life. He will have to provide a DNA sample.
Justice Melvyn Green decided on a two-year-and-nine-month sentence minus credit for nine days served in pre-trial custody. One of his victims looked on, nearly in tears.
Court heard McGilly, who was originally suspended on paid leave, was fired in April after the Toronto Catholic District School Board investigation. Disciplinary hearings at the Ontario College of Teachers have yet to happen, but his lawyer told the court it’s expected McGilly will lose his teaching license.
Just before being led off in handcuffs, McGilly addressed the court. He apologized for betraying the trust his students had in him as a teacher and a role model.
“You didn’t deserve this kind of behaviour from me. I’m sorry,” he said.
“I’ve been receiving therapy since my arrest to ensure this never happens again. I made ridiculous and immoral choices”.