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Globe Editorial

Yardstick of Canadian justice not harsh enough for Graham James Add to ...

Why is the Crown asking for just six years in prison for serial predator Graham James after 400 sexual assaults on one teen and 150 on another? If he had raped them, say, 5 or 10 times each, wouldn’t the Crown be asking for roughly the same? Are the subsequent 395 attacks free?

The yardsticks of Canadian justice are entirely wrong for the case of Graham James. The repeated sexual assaults of anyone hundreds of times cries out for justice. The requested sentence of six years reflects a system that may never have contemplated a crime of such severity, repeated so often, and still has trouble truly seeing the evidence before it.

Graham James was in a position of power over adolescents who were far from home. In the case of one, Theoren Fleury, he was virtually on his own in the world. Their career was in his hands. Mr. James was Coach of the Year, feted everywhere. He abused his trust and power over the vulnerable.

Does the system assume that, after the first 5 or 10 rapes, the victims were complicit – asked for it in some sense? Are they any less victims on rapes 10 through 400 than on the first 10?

This is not really a question of community safety, of whether Mr. James still poses a danger (these crimes occurred in the 1980s and 90s). Nor is it, primarily, about deterrence of him or others. This case is about denunciation of horrible crimes against the vulnerable, in the right proportion.

That Mr. James has already served time in jail for sexually assaulting two other teenage hockey players a couple of decades ago isn’t terribly relevant, either. He didn’t own up earlier to sexually assaulting Mr. Fleury (150 times) and Todd Holt (400 times), and deserves to be punished for those assaults without any hidden sentencing discount.

Mr. Fleury, in his victim impact statement, talked about putting a gun in his mouth and nearly pulling the trigger. Mr. Holt said, “There are no words to describe the depths of suffering.” These are crimes that shock the conscience, and a six-year sentence is too weak to express society’s anger and horror.

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