Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Is It Really Justice?

It's hard to tell since his physical appearance has changed greatly since his time as a junior coach, but the man with the red facial protection on is Graham James, a known sex offender and pedophile. James was given two two-year sentences that will run concurrently for the offences committed against Theoren Fleury and Todd Holt - a mild sentence considering the offences committed by the man against teenagers. There was outrage by the victims as James was led away today in handcuffs as the former junior coach seemingly got a slap on the wrists from Manitoba Provincial Court Judge Catherine Carlson.

While Judge Carlson explained how James was able to manipulate the players he coached into doing whatever it was he pleased, she also came to James' defence. She stated that James had already received three-and-a-half years in prison in 1997 for similar crimes, and, that had these charges been brought up then, James would have likely seen a prison sentence of six years handed down in 1997. She also stated that he had no re-offended since 1994, received treatment, surrendered to police, pleaded guilty to the charges, and apologized in court. In Judge Carlson's eyes, these reasons somehow justify two two-year sentences to run concurrently in a federal prison rather than the six-sentence the Crown was asking for in this case.

Judge Carlson recognized that she was in a tough spot with this case as there was likely no sentence "that the victims, and indeed many members of the public, will find satisfactory," she said. "What happened to Mr. Fleury and Mr. Holt is every child’s worst nightmare, and every parent’s worst nightmare. It is trite, but important to note that the Canadian criminal justice system is not one of vengeance."

She did make mention that the maximum sentence is ten years for crimes such as these, and that comment leads me to wonder why Graham James is only receiving a total of two years in prison when his grip on the lives of Theoren Fleury and Todd Holt lasted much longer than that. I'm not saying it should be an eye for an eye in this case, but the lives of Fleury and Holt (and Sheldon Kennedy and Greg Gilhooly) were under James' direct control for a lot longer than two years.

"The thing that I have trouble with is 32 hours of rehabilitation is a joke," Mr. Kennedy said to reporters, referring to the treatment sessions Mr. James had in jail. "It’s been a lifetime of working and rehabilitating with counsellors and two hour sessions a week to just stay on track myself after the damage that Graham has inflicted. So to sit in there and hear that Graham James is rehabilitated really drives me nuts."

If we go back to the first sentence, Graham James spent 20 months in prison - less than half of the time assigned to him as punishment for the crimes he committed. Since this sentence is longer than one-year-less-a-day, he'll go back to federal prison and be eligible for parole after he has served one-third of his sentence. That's right: in eight months, Graham James could be out of prison again. He'll have served a total of 28 months in prison on four counts of child and sexual abuse.

Does that seem right to you? I'm not saying that James hasn't changed in terms of not being a predator any longer. The fact that he has changed doesn't absolve him for the horrific crimes he committed so long ago. In fact, he should waive his right to parole if he truly recognizes what he has done is wrong. That would show true recognition of the agony and misery he caused so many kids when he was sick.

The Crown may still appeal this decision, and I hope that they do. Eight months for two convictions of sexual abuse? Maybe it's the justice system that's perverse in all of this.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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