Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tories push appeal of James' sentence

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THE provincial Progressive Conservatives are pushing the province to appeal the two-year sentence handed to Graham James for child sexual assault.

PC justice critic Kelvin Goertzen reminded Attorney General Andrew Swan Thursday the Crown had only 15 more days to challenge the sentence, which he called appalling.

"The sentence did not fit the crime and was a questionable interpretation of Canadian law," said Goertzen. "It needs to be appealed and I want to remind Mr. Swan that the clock is ticking and that Canadians are watching and waiting."

However, a spokeswoman for Swan said the attorney general is not involved in the decision to appeal specific criminal cases.

Jodee Mason said it's "unfortunate the (Conservatives) are trying to garner a cheap political hit with a very serious issue before the courts."

She said Goertzen is showing "a fundamental lack of understanding of the appropriate role of the attorney general" to suggest Swan would interfere politically in a criminal matter.

Mason said the decision to appeal would be made by the Crown based on the likelihood of success.

New Democrats believe there should be stronger penalties for those who sexually assault children.

That's why the province supported a new federal bill that will see harsher penalties for these kinds of crime, she added.

James, 59, was sentenced after pleading guilty to systematically sexually abusing former NHL star Theoren Fleury and Todd Holt, Fleury's younger cousin, when he coached them as teenagers in junior hockey during the 1980s and early 1990s. The Crown wanted a six-year sentence while the defence asked for a conditional sentence with no jail time.

The two-year sentence means James is eligible for day parole in September, when he will have served six months. He's eligible for full parole when he serves one-third of his sentence, meaning he could be released in November.

-- staff

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 B2

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