A Winnipeg lawyer charged last month with sexual assault and child pornography offences linked to his role as a minor hockey coach three decades ago has died.

A Winnipeg lawyer charged last month with sexual assault and child pornography offences linked to his role as a minor hockey coach three decades ago has died.

Robert (Bob) Dawson, 57, was found dead at a hotel Wednesday in the St. James-Assiniboia area.

On Thursday, Winnipeg police would only say it was a sudden death and foul play is not suspected; multiple sources told the Free Press Dawson had ended his own life.

In a statement, police said since the charges were made public last month — two former hockey players had come forward with assault allegations from the early 1990s — the sex crimes unit had continued investigating and more potential victims had been located.

"The Winnipeg Police Service would like to thank all those individuals who came forward to provide them with valuable information in relation to this investigation," police said.

Dawson's lawyer, Sarah Inness, said she couldn't comment about the matter or what now happens to the case.

Crown attorney Katie Dojack said no decision had yet been made about the legal matter scheduled to appear at court next week.

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, whose disclosure more than two decades ago helped imprison former junior hockey coach Graham James, said he has talked to some victims who reached out to him in the weeks after Dawson was charged.

"I haven't spoken to them (since Dawson's death) but I probably will," Kennedy said Thursday.

"I think this is sad for the victims who have come forward. There is a piece that is really important. Maybe this will close the door for some... but for me, it was important to hear the judge say, 'You're guilty' or they admitted their crime," he said.

"They won't get that (in court), so I feel for the victims. But I guess by his actions he was telling the victims he is guilty."

City police held a news conference Sept. 2 to announce the charges against Dawson.

At the time, police said they had been contacted separately by two complainants in June. Both alleged they were sexually assaulted by a coach in the Assiniboine Park Hockey Association between 1993 and 1995, when they were players in their early teens.

Police raided Dawson's home on the first 100 block of Lake Park Drive and arrested him Sept. 1.

The Assiniboine Park Rangers team later confirmed on its website Dawson had "formerly volunteered with the Rangers organization... The Rangers have been communicating with, and supporting the victims and stakeholders who have reached out to our organization."

Ian McArton, executive director of Hockey Winnipeg, said no potential victims had reached out to the organization.

McArton said in the years since the alleged incidents occurred, as well as other high-profile incidents across the country, the local governing body has put in place safety procedures.

"There is a rule where every rostered team official — coach, manager, trainer — have to have a child abuse check done every year," he said.

"Additionally, we have our Respectful Hockey policy where people can make a confidential complaint and we will investigate it with a lawyer as a third party. We get to the bottom of the situation," McArton said.

"The complaints are just viewed by me and my president. You don't have to go through your own coach."

Dawson was a graduate of the University of Oxford and was called to the bar in 1991 in the areas of civil litigation and administrative law.

Through the years, Dawson taught legal ethics at the University of Manitoba and served as an adjudicator with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. He also is a former chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s national administrative law section.

Leah Kosokowsky, the Law Society of Manitoba's chief executive officer, confirmed Dawson had not been suspended and was still working as a lawyer, but under conditions imposed by the courts and by the law society.

The conditions included preventing Dawson from providing legal advice to anyone under the age of 18 and not be in a position of trust for anyone under 18.

"It is tragic," said Kosokowsky. "It is tragic for everybody."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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