Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sex-abuse reform vital, victims say

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TORONTO -- Promises to give victims a formal role in Canada's criminal justice system and to stiffen penalties for child-sex predators are overdue federal initiatives, two abused former hockey players said Monday.

Speaking after a roundtable with the justice minister, Greg Gilhooly and Sheldon Kennedy said the Conservative government was on the right track, even if details were lacking.

"Right now a victim is simply a witness -- we're at the beck and call of other people," Gilhooly said.

"To the extent that we can be given a formalized role in the judicial process, that to me would be a wonderfully empowering thing."

A victim's bill of rights was one of three get-tough-on-crime themes the government plans to emphasize this year, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said. The aim is to entrench the rights of victims into a single law.

Nicholson also promised stiffer sentences for child-sex predators.

Concerns over sentencing arose after former hockey coach Graham James was jailed for two years last year for assaults on ex-NHL star Theo Fleury and his cousin Todd Holt in the 1980s and '90s.

The Crown has appealed the sentence as too lenient in a case that also saw the prosecution stay charges involving assaults on Gilhooly as part of James's guilty plea.

James had already been sentenced to 31/2 years in the mid-1990s for assaulting Kennedy and another young hockey player.

He served 18 months.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2013 A5

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