Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 12/3/2012 12:43 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 12/3/2012 1:47 PM | Updates
Manitoba’s highest court has reserved judgment on whether to increase the sentence given to convicted sex abuser Graham James.
Crown and defence lawyers appeared before the Court of Appeal Monday morning to argue the fate of the notorious former junior hockey coach.
Prosecutor Liz Thomson says the two-year penalty James received for sexually assaulting two of former players on hundreds of occasions between 1983 and 1994 was not nearly enough. She is arguing for a six-year sentence, saying it’s the only way to express society’s condemnation for such a crime.
But defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg urged the three-justice panel not to interfere, saying James is a changed man who has earned a second chance. He said the fact James has gone nearly two decades since he offended without re-arrest shows he is no longer a public danger.
"There is proven rehabilitation here," said Roitenberg.
James, 59, pleaded guilty earlier this year to abusing Theoren Fleury and Todd Holt while coaching them during the 1980s and early '90s in the Western Hockey League. Fleury went on to become a star in the National Hockey League.
"What occurred here was incredibly egregious," Appeal Court Justice Alan MacInnes said Monday. "He was not just their guardian. He controlled their futures. He effectively destroyed them by his conduct."
At his sentencing hearing earlier this year, Crown attorney Colleen McDuff told court James specifically targeted players for abuse, even making trades in the Western Hockey League "for players he thought were good-looking."
"There was a buildup of their hopes and dreams, then a breakdown of these victims to ensure compliance. Graham James dangled a carrot... that virtually every boy playing hockey in Canada would aspire to. He abused that trust horribly," McDuff said.
In their notice of appeal, the Crown argued provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson erred in her approach to the sentence, overemphasized the significance of prior sentences for similar offences and erred in assessing the "totality principle." That principle holds that jail time for multiple offences must still be fair and reasonable when added together.
James was previously sentenced in 1997 to three-and-a-half years behind bars for attacks against three other former junior players around the same time as the ones which happened to Fleury and Holt. However, both those victims waited until years after the fact to come forward to police.
James received a controversial pardon in 2007 for his earlier set of offences, but it was revoked after his most recent arrest. The Conservative government has since revamped the pardon system, particularly for convicted sex offenders such as James.
James became eligible for day parole in September after serving six months of his sentence. He became eligible for full parole when he served one-third of his sentence by late November. However, the National Parole Board says it has not received any applications from him. If the Crown is not successful in its appeal, James is eligible for statutory release next July.
James's sentence sparked outrage from many, including his victims. Fleury and Holt called the sentence a "national travesty." He remains in custody and did not personally appear at Monday’s appeal.
The high court has given no indication of when they will be ready with their decision.
Updated on Monday, December 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM CST: Photo added
12:50 PM: update
1:47 PM: story updated
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
8-year sentence sought for Winnipeg man who set up bathroom spy-cams
Lawyers ask judge to overturn murder verdict in Hornbrook trial
U of W approves indigenous course requirement
Parole officials impressed with progress made by Winnipeg killer
Peguis First Nation elects a new chief, Cindy Spence, who replaces Glenn Hudson
Kelvin High School gets extra month to raise $1 million for track and wellness centre
Quebec judge calls Toews to task over ignoring letter from former landlord
Report of suspicious man unfounded: police
Firms shortlisted for $590 million transitway and Pembina underpass project
Wanted: info on trains blocking traffic
Wildlife federation pushes for ban on spot-light hunting
Barn fire kills 1,500 hogs; arson not suspected
Man arrested after indecent act Tuesday
WAG's Inuit Art Centre receives $500-K donation
Optimism running low among Manitoba's small business owners: survey
City's rail lines the real problem
Dad gets prison for abusing kids
Toews' lobbying to be probed
Police hide in cone of silence
Cold today and tonight, but weekend to be warmer
City Hall Roundup
Full support for roadwork list
Police presence at Net pharmacy
Getting a charge out of research
Filmon grateful for new job, life itself
How's my home, James? What the measurement means to flood-prone Winnipeg
Friends wanted: Program matches locals with immigrant families