A teen found guilty of sexually assaulting another student at an all-boys Catholic school in Toronto was sentenced to two years of probation on Tuesday, with no time behind bars.
A judge found the teen guilty in June of gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon after another teen was assaulted with a broom handle in a locker room at St. Michael’s College School in 2018. An assault charge in the case was stayed.
Justice Manjusha Pawagi said she had to impose a sentence similar to those handed to other youth in the same incident. She also found that the teen was a strong candidate for full rehabilitation and unlikely to commit another crime.
“Given that two young persons involved in the same incident and in two others were sentenced to two years probation, and given the many mitigating factors described in detail earlier, I find that the less restrictive alternative of probation would be a proportionate and meaningful consequence that would hold (the accused) accountable,” Justice Pawagi said.
The prosecution had argued the teen should spend three months behind bars for what it called a “violent and humiliating” incident.
The defence had argued the teen should receive a probationary sentence of two years with no jail time, like four others who pleaded guilty in the same incident.
The November 2018 sexual assault was captured on cellphone video and shared widely on social media before police launched an investigation.
The accused teen faced the same charges in a similar incident against another student in October 2018 but those were withdrawn earlier this year after the judge found there was not enough evidence to proceed.
News of the incidents and the subsequent police probe reverberated across the country and sparked a national conversation on hazing in youth sports. Police would eventually charge seven students for their alleged roles in the sex assaults.
No young person involved in the proceedings can be named due to provisions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Three teens previously pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon. Each was sentenced to two years of probation. One of them also pleaded guilty to making child pornography for recording one of the sex assaults. Another received a two-year probationary sentence after pleading guilty. The charges against two others were withdrawn.
The accused teen’s case was the last case to conclude.
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Police launched their investigation shortly after the November 2018 incident. At the time, a video circulating on social media appeared to show a frenzied sexual assault on a teenager by others who held him down and sexually assaulted him with a broom handle.
The 22-second video, which was played in court during trial, showed students laughing and yelling at the time.
The accused teen testified earlier this year that he had been bullied on four different days that fall. He said in some of those incidents he was slammed on the ground and dragged by his feet.
On the evening of Nov. 7, 2018, he said a circle of boys in the locker room formed after a game. He said he was pushed into the middle of it and repeatedly told to hold the victim down.
He recalled then holding down his friend’s arms while two others wielded the broom. The teen said he felt he had to participate, otherwise he’d be targeted.
His lawyer, Geary Tomlinson, described the locker room as a “chaotic, Lord of the Flies environment.”
Crown attorney Sarah De Filippis said the teen knew what he was doing and participated in the sexual assault.
The judge, in finding the accused teen guilty, said he could have chosen not to participate.
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