Tuesday September 30, 2014

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A wrist slap just doesn’t cut it

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“There is no sentence this court can impose that will give back to Mr. Holt and Mr. Fleury that which was taken by Mr. James.” Those were the words spoken by the judge as she recently handed down the sentence in the highly publicized Graham James trial. While what she said is very true, there was a sentence that may not have given back what was taken, but it would have been more just.

Last week former junior hockey coach Graham James was sentenced to two years in prison for sexually assaulting two of his former players – Todd Holt and his cousin Theo Fleury, who played in the NHL. James assaulted both hundreds of times over the course of the years while they were teenagers and this wasn’t his first offence either.

“Mr. James’s victims are multiple,” the judge said. “His behaviour was predatory and orchestrated to make victims dependent on him.”

His most recent brush with the law was James’ third conviction for sexually assaulting teenage boys. In 1997, he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years for assaulting two other players, including former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy. He served 20 months before being released on parole. James was also convicted of a sexual assault dating back to 1971.

So basically what the judge has done is given a known – and admitted – child predator (that’s her own word) a slap on the wrist after which he’ll return to society and no doubt carry on a behaviour he can’t appear to control. There are serious problems with a justice system that allows something like this to happen if you ask me.

“This sentence today is nothing short of a national travesty because we know that childhood abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our country,” said victim Todd Holt following the sentence. “Graham James is laughing all the way back to the life he has always led, knowing that justice for him is but a blip on the radar.”

We know full well James won’t be serving the full two years. He expressed remorse, said the judge, apologized to his victims and has experienced what she says is “an extreme degree of humiliation” – all factors that warranted a reduction in his sentence. He also plead guilty and has kept a regular full-time job.

That’s all fine and dandy, but this man is guilty of serious crimes that will have lasting impacts. If we dismiss it all with a tap on the wrist, what message does that send to the victims and to other child molesters out there? Not a proper one that’s for sure.


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