I’m very sorry for how you will feel after this: The Graham James story examined

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief  Ω

By the time this publication hits the stands of TRU, and goes up online at theomega.ca, Graham James will have been sentenced for his guilty plea (filed in December) for numerous and repeated sexual assaults against children.

In a way I’m glad I can’t know the sentence before I write this editorial, because there’s no way it will truly be justice, and those of you sensitive to “obscene” language wouldn’t get through the piece.

You might not anyway — this piece is going to have some appalling concepts in it. Wait—there was one back there already, wasn’t there?

I will repeat this, just so there’s no confusion about the actual facts.

James pleaded guilty to numerous and repeated sexual assaults against children.

Still reading? Not disgusted enough yet? I’ll try harder — not that I’ll have to.

Let’s continue with a few more interesting (and disturbing) facts: James pleaded guilty in 1997 to sexually assaulting a child and was sentenced to three and a half years in jail. While serving that sentence he was charged and pleaded guilty to another sexual assault on a 14-year-old boy, which occurred in 1971.

Six months was added to his sentence.

He was released after serving a total of 18 months and issued a lifetime ban from coaching in Canada by the Canadian Hockey Association.

Did you just puke a little?

Are you revolted because James was these children’s hockey coach, in parts of Canada where hockey is very seriously considered a way out, and these children’s hopes and dreams for the future were tied directly to the sport in which James was their leader, mentor and role model?

Are you appalled that he served 18 months in jail for sexually abusing children?

Or are you disgusted because it was so long between the atrocities and the public being made aware of them?

Maybe because you suspect many other deplorable things may have happened over the years — things that no one besides the victims will ever know about?

There was at least one.

An anonymous victim filed a civil lawsuit against James in 2003, and the case was settled out of court.

Oh, by the way, after being released from prison in 2000 after serving all 18 months of his sentence for raping children, since he couldn’t coach hockey in Canada, he went to Spain, where he continued to coach young boys, including the country’s national team.

Are you seriously able to keep reading this? Good for you. I’m having trouble writing it, but I’ll fight through it as long as you’ll stay with me. Allow me to continue for those of you still along for this (hopefully) gut-wrenching ride.

In 2007, James applied for and was granted a pardon by the National Parole Board of Canada.

Go ahead and read that last line again, I’ll wait.

This pardon was not disclosed to the media or the public. It prompted outrage and parole reform when it came to light years later.

A few weeks ago, the Chief Justice of Canada came to campus to speak on ways that the Canadian justice system has failed Canadians. I can’t help but feel she may have missed a few facets of that failure.

As I sat at my computer this morning, the day before the newest sentencing of Graham James, checking my news feeds as I often do, I read a piece published by the Canadian Press (CP), published just this morning (Mar. 19, 2012), which spurred this editorial in the first place.

The lead (the opening line, for those of you not fluent in journalistic language) of the CP article I’m referring to reads as follows:

“A Manitoba judge says allowing cameras to broadcast the sentencing of disgraced former hockey coach Graham James for sexual abuse would turn the highly charged case into a spectacle and could violate the sex offender’s privacy.”

Oh, thank you, Judge Catherine Carlson! We’d hate to have this man’s privacy violated, wouldn’t we?
If you’ll all excuse me now, I have to go get this taste out of my mouth.

I hope you do too.

editorofomega@gmail.com

UPDATE:

Graham James was sentenced on the morning of Mar. 20 for his latest guilty plea.

He received a sentence of two years per victim, to be served concurrently (which means at the same time, by the way) and have his name and DNA added to the national sex-offender database.

Todd Holt, one of James’ victims, spoke at  a press conference after the sentencing hearing, bravely fighting back tears and answering questions from those gathered.

“My life can go on today,” he said, acknowledging that, “I don’t think there’s a sentence out there that’s suitable for this type of abuse, for any type of abuse,” but that he is attempting to be done with anger, and accept that Judge Carlson made her decision, and he will move on with his life and all the good things in it.

“I’m okay today. It took me a lot of years to be able to say that,” he said.

When asked about his feeling about James’ rehabilitation, he replied, “I believe in my heart that Graham James will offend again,” and referred a point in the courthouse where James’ made the admission that “he still prefers young men.”

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