By Gustavo Vieira - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 0 Comments
A two-year sentence for convicted sex-abuser Graham James led to widespread anger across Canada
The sentencing of former hockey coach Graham James for two years of prison time has been called a “national travesty” by victims Todd Holt and Theo Fleury. James had pleaded guilty in December of 2011 to sexually assaulting both players in the ’80s and ’90s when he coached the two in the Western Hockey League.
According to the Globe and Mail, another of James’ victims, Greg Gilhooly, was sitting in court when the sentence was announced and shook his head in disbelief and said “This isn’t justice.” After the sentencing, Fleury took to Twitter to push for change in the legislation, sparking an online debate over the fact that “the sentences don’t come close to the damage that it leaves in its wake,” according to yet another victim of James, former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
Former hockey coach Graham James will serve two years in prison for sexual assault…
Former hockey coach Graham James will serve two years in prison for sexual assault against former NHL star Theoren Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt, Canadian Press reports. James pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the two men hundreds of times when they were junior hockey players.
Handing down her decision in a Winnipeg courtroom on Tuesday, Judge Catherine Carlson said: “The court expects there is no sentence it can impose that the victims, and indeed many members of the public, will find satisfactory.”
Many Canadians have expressed outrage with the decision, including Holt, who said in a statement “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.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 1:53 PM - 100 Comments
Well, it does seem to be policy-making by headlines and sensationalism. Of course a lot of Canadians I’m sure would have trouble with Mr. Olson getting payments while he’s in prison and so do we. But the bill has got to be looked at very, very carefully to see exactly what the Conservatives are up to here but they do appear to be making headlines by making policy based on headlines.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 7:49 AM - 41 Comments
Pardoned sex offenders are automatically erased from the database
Wherever he’s hiding these days, serial molester Graham James is surely reading about himself in the headlines, no doubt furious his predatory past is once again front-page news. The latest revelation—that the National Parole Board quietly pardoned the notorious pedophile hockey coach three years ago—has triggered as much outrage as the original charges, and exposed a long list of confusing truths about how our criminal justice system deals with dangerous sex offenders.
Thanks to Graham James, Canadians now know just how simple it is for a man who preys on teenage boys to have his criminal record wiped clean. Over the past two years, 1,554 sex offenders applied for a pardon; only 41 were rejected. Thanks to Graham James, Canadians also now know that a standard criminal background check doesn’t disclose the fact that a potential volunteer might be a pardoned predator. Those details only turn up in what’s known as a Vulnerable Sector Search (VSS), a much more exhaustive screening tool that requires fingerprints and weeks of waiting—and that many volunteer organizations don’t bother demanding.
The Harper government is already promising an overhaul. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has vowed to make it tougher for men like James to secure pardons, and his office is listening to suggestions that would ensure Boy Scout leaders and minor hockey coaches are thoroughly screened. But the James case has revealed another frightening loophole: pardoned sex offenders are automatically erased from the Ontario Sex Offender Registry.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 19, 2010 at 4:15 PM - 25 Comments
The Prime Minister marks national crime victims week with reference to Graham James.
The government is planning to introduce new legislation this year to toughen the pardon system, in reaction to revelations earlier this month that sex offender Graham James, the disgraced former hockey coach, received a pardon three years ago.
“Even though he ruined the lives of boys that just wanted to play hockey, he can travel without having to admit his criminal record,” Mr. Harper said. “That, my friends, is how the laws have been written over the past few decades, written when soft-on-crime attitudes were fashionable and concern for criminals took priority over compassion for victims.”
Mr. Harper did not mention that his government reviewed the system for sex-offender pardons in 2006 and opted for minor administrative tinkering rather than changing legislation to make it harder or even impossible for people like James to be pardoned.
More, previously, here.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, April 12, 2010 at 12:11 PM - 10 Comments
The pardon is a formality, in a rubber-stamp system
The revelation last weekend that the National Parole Board had pardoned Graham James, the former junior hockey coach convicted in 1997 of sexually abusing Sheldon Kennedy and other teenage players, was met with rage and bewilderment. “Pardon” is a word that, in ordinary lay use, denotes forgiveness and exoneration. It is not easy to use it comfortably in connection with James, who defended himself by insisting that his relationship with Kennedy was “consensual,” and who has been accused of molesting other players during his coaching career, ones not involved in his 1997 trial.
Canadian parole officials see things differently. To them, a “pardon” is an administrative formality, one available virtually as a matter of right to ex-convicts who have displayed lawful behaviour outside of prison.
More than 99 per cent of pardon applications that reach the adjudication stage are granted by the NPB. But to get that far (as only three-quarters of filed applications do), an applicant has to pass several tests, be fingerprinted, compile his own records, and pay fees. Although the volume of pardon applications is expanding fast, it still seems modest—roughly 36,000 were filed in fiscal 2008-09—in a country where over three million people are thought to have had a criminal record.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 3:32 PM - 21 Comments
Interesting reporting today from the CBC’s Neil Morrison and the Citizen’s Dan Gardner. Seems that whatever this past week’s outrage over the decision to pardon Graham James, the government conducted a review of the system three years ago. From Gardner’s version.
The review was conducted. An array of options was put before the minister. As usual, they covered the gamut. At one extreme was “change nothing.” At the other, “forbid sex offenders from ever receiving pardons under any circumstances.”
Day studied the process, the policy, and the facts, and he concluded some changes were warranted. For example, two parole board members, not one, would be involved in applications by sex offenders. And rather than relying on local police to bring forward information related to the applicant’s conduct, the parole board would be required to go and get any information local police may have. But on the fundamental question — should sex offenders continue to be eligible for pardons? — Day decided in the affirmative.
Graham James received his pardon in 2007. It’s not clear if his application was dealt with before or after Day’s revisions to the process but it does seem certain that no change made by Day would have changed the outcome.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, April 5, 2010 at 1:04 AM - 105 Comments
As a former newspaper columnist, I think I have pretty rock-solid law-and-order credentials. I recall arguing at various times, before a national audience, in hard type, that criminal justice is properly regarded as an orderly, deliberate species of revenge; that not only is the death penalty a proper prerogative of the state, but that the guillotine is the most humane and reasonable method of applying it; and that the Middle Eastern custom of severing the hands of thieves, while “barbaric”, may be ethically superior in some respects to our own methods of dealing with them.
So I trust I will not be accused of snivelling liberal cowardice when I ask: why should the National Parole Board necessarily come under suspicion or criticism for granting a pardon to Graham James?
It is common for ink-and-pulp tough guys like me to hold the NPB to a standard of perfection that may or may not be realistic. Without question, this body has made clumsy mistakes and appears susceptible to psychiatric fads, unscientific beliefs, and emotional manipulation by shrewd sociopaths. It is responsible for errors of the most spectacular, naïve, foreseeable kind, and it has learned to suffer beatings from the journalistic cudgels—albeit to no very impressive real-world effect—when it commits one. But where is the mistake here?
Is there some evidence that Graham James has re-offended since his release from prison? If there isn’t, on what basis can the decision of Pierre Dion be criticized? Since we have a system of routine, assembly-line pardons for offenders like James, what more can we expect that those given such pardons will do no harm? Has James done some? A radio personality in my city was heard to growl that someone at the Parole Board “ought to be fired”. For what? Accurately foreseeing that James was no longer a danger to the public?
The “fresh allegations” date back to James’ coaching career, and irrespective of his pardon, he is still subject to arrest and prosecution when it comes to offences for which he hasn’t yet been tried and punished. But people are talking as though “pardon” means “plenary indulgence”. James served his sentence—I won’t say “he paid his debt to society”, but he certainly discharged his specific debt to the state—and the history-effacing effects of pardons are rightly limited for sex offenders in the name of continued deterrence and protection of the innocent. And Theoren Fleury may be upset or uncomfortable that James received a pardon, but Fleury didn’t publicly allege anything against James until very recently, and his right to a hearing of his own grievance is in no way affected by the pardon.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 11:25 AM - 2 Comments
Why the former NHL star stayed quiet about the abuse for so long
In late 1996, Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy had a meeting of minds—albeit the sort that takes place over bottles of beer and lines of cocaine. Strung out and miserable, the two NHL players were in the midst of a golfing trip to Phoenix, delving into a shared secret that was about to send tremors through the sport of hockey. Kennedy had recently told police he’d been sexually abused by Graham James, a coach both had played for as juniors in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Fleury, too, had been abused by James as often as twice a week while playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. The story had not yet hit the press, but each knew how deeply the other had suffered. For 10 hours that night, they discussed openly experiences they’d never spoken of before.
When the session was over, however, they took separate paths. Kennedy went public, becoming the face of a sporting scandal, while Fleury maintained his silence for a dozen more years—a decision that left him a shell of a man. “Sheldon’s secret was out, so he was able to start dealing with it,” Fleury explains in a new autobiography, Playing with Fire. “Mine was not. Graham still had control of my life.” To forget, the stumpy winger from Russell, Man., threw himself headlong into booze, cocaine, womanizing and gambling. “The direct result of my being abused was that I became a f–king raging, alcoholic lunatic,” he writes. “[James] destroyed my belief system. The most influential adult in my life at the time was telling me that what I thought was wrong was right. I no longer had faith in myself or my own judgment.” Continue…
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, October 9, 2009 at 11:28 AM - 110 Comments
MACLEAN’S EXCLUSIVE: Harrowing details from his new book and interview with the retired NHL star
Retired hockey star Theoren Fleury has at long last confirmed that he was sexually abused by his junior coach, Graham James, a trauma he says drove him to alcohol, drugs and promiscuity throughout his otherwise impressive 16-year NHL career. “The direct result of my being abused was that I became a f—ing raging, alcoholic lunatic,” he writes in Playing with Fire, an autobiography to be released this week, and provided in advance to Maclean’s. “[James] destroyed my belief system. The most influential adult in my life at the time was telling me that what I thought was wrong was right.
“I no longer had faith in myself or my own judgment. And when you come down to it, that’s all a person has. Once it’s gone, how do you get it back?” Continue…