The mere presence of new criminal allegations against convicted sex offender Graham James means his controversial pardon could be revoked.
Mr. James, a former junior hockey coach, faces nine new counts of sexually abusing teenage players under his influence over a period that stretched from 1979 into the mid-1990s.
The charge sheet, filed Wednesday in a Winnipeg court, includes allegations from three new complainants, including former NHL star Theoren Fleury. The other two complainants can’t be named due to a publication ban.
Mr. James, who pleaded guilty to hundreds of assaults on two teenage boys in 1997, was quietly pardoned in 2007.
When exposed, the pardon caused shock right up to the Prime Minister’s Office and led to new legislation to tighten up the pardons system.
But Mr. James’ pardon, which wiped his convictions from the Canadian Police Information Centre database, remained in effect. That could soon change.
The Criminal Records Act authorizes the National Parole Board to revoke a pardon on several grounds, including a subsequent conviction, but also a broad category indicating “the recipient is no longer of good conduct.”
Caroline Douglas, communications director for the Parole Board of Canada, said a conviction is not needed to revoke a pardon – the act of laying charges, especially charges similar to the pardoned offence, can spur the board to act.
She stressed that she could not discuss any individual case, but said it is not necessary for police or other authorities to request that a pardon be revoked. The board, she said, can act on its own.
“We have a broad authority,” she said. “We’re not a policing body, but information is typically brought to our attention and it can be brought to our attention in various ways. Then the board has to make a determination what to do with that information and whether a board member takes a look at it.”
While the Criminal Records Act does not define “good conduct,” the board issued the following guideline examples:
– “Information about an incident that resulted in a charge that was subsequently withdrawn, stayed or dismissed ....”
– “The relevance of this information increases where the charge or charges are of a serious nature, and/or are related to the convictions on the record for which the pardon is requested.”
– “Information provided by law enforcement agencies about suspected or alleged criminal behaviour.”
– “With respect to applicants convicted of a sex offence prosecuted by way of indictment, any information received from law enforcement agencies further to inquiries made by the board.”
Mr. James, 58, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 1997 after his guilty plea for sex offences involving former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and another unnamed individual.
The latest charge sheet against Mr. James – covering a period from 1979 to 1994 – includes new allegations of gross indecency, sexual assault, indecent assault and attempt to commit buggery.
Statistics provided by the National Parole Board show that over the past five years, 54 pardons have been revoked for serious offences. Pardons for sexual offences have only been tracked separately since 2008, and in the two full years of record keeping, none have been revoked.
“It is rare for a file to be put before a board member for a possible revocation, but it does happen,” said Ms. Douglas.
She added that if a pardon is revoked, that information is not made public.
Mr. James is believed to be living in Mexico and his Winnipeg lawyer has indicated he is prepared to face any new charges.
Canada signed an extradition treaty with Mexico in 1990 but as of Thursday there was no indication an extradition request for Mr. James was in the works.
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