Thursday, 12 April 2012

Second Chance For Justice

I was a little annoyed when it was announced that convicted sex offender Graham James got a slap on the wrist in his latest trial involving more men who stepped forward as players under James' watch that were abused by disgraced junior coach. I had written that I had hoped that the Crown would appeal the verdict handed down by Manitoba Provincial Court Judge Catherine Carlson so that more time could be added to James' punishment, and it appears that hope will become a reality as an appeal has been filed by Manitoba's Justice Department over the sentencing.

I don't think that there's a more heinous crime than the sexual abuse of children or teenagers by a figure of authority. Graham James' name will never be unlinked from that crime, and I'm glad that people have stepped forward to break the stigma of embarrassment and shame that is associated with the victims of this type of crime. With the announcement that Manitoba's Justice Department will appeal the sentencing, here's hoping that the punishment will fit the crime committed years ago.

"This is an eye-opener for a lot of perpetrators out there," Todd Holt, one of James' victims, said. "You can't hide. There are penalties nowadays and we're making the changes."

"This isn't a lynch mob running after Graham James," Greg Gilhooly, another of James' victims, said. "This is a common-sensical reaction to an unacceptable outcome."

When Judge Carlson indicated that the "extreme degree of humiliation" suffered by James in the previous convictions led to her decision to reduce the sentence in this case, I believe the Judge erred in an egregious way. If anything, James' previous sentences for sexual assault should factor into a heavier sentence for James. Make James the example for anyone else who even has these despicable thoughts creep into their minds.

From reports, it sounds as though Manitoba's Justice Department will seek the original six-year sentence they were asking for during the trial. Personally, I think the longer the sentence is, the better. This is a man who took a number of years from his victims with his deplorable acts, and the trauma for some of his victims is still being suffered today.

And don't give me this garbage about how James has been rehabilitated and reformed so he can contribute to society. This is a man who sexually assaulted a number of boys hundreds, even thousands, of times combined. This is a man who was trusted by these teenagers as their hockey coach that he would do all he could to help them realize a dream. Instead, their junior hockey days became a nightmare at the perverted hands of Graham James.

Reformed? I don't think so. You suppress that kind of abusive nature forever. Sure, he may have ways of coping with it now, but the depraved thoughts are still there. An apology is great - James did offer one during his trial - but it won't bring back the lost years and innocence of the players he assaulted. Both Sheldon Kennedy and Theoren Fleury developed severe addiction problems during their NHL years, and both attribute that to the abuse suffered at the hands of James. Does "sorry" give them back the years lost to drinking and drugs that helped them cope with the abuse?

Look, I'm not suggesting that James be quartered and tied and dragged through town. I do want him to serve the full six years in prison for his actions, and I hope there would be zero chance at parole. I know that's not how the justice system works, but people who abuse children should lose all rights and privileges. They denied their victims thje opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness by tormenting them sexually, and I feel that they should lose that right as well to suffer as their victims did.

An eye for an eye is nothing more than a dream at this point, but I'm hoping that the judge presiding over the appeal feels that justice was not served the first time, and throws the book at Graham James. Graham James' apology at this point means very little when it comes to all he took.

For once, I hope justice is not blind.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!