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Canada’s Judicial System Needs an Overhaul – Exhibit A: Graham James’ Sentence

March 21, 2012

Tuesday 19 March 2012.  The day Graham James’ victims received a slap in the face from Canada’s judicial system. The legal system that is supposed to protect its citizens from predators like James’, saw fit to sentence the previously convicted pedophile to two years in prison for his offences against Todd Holt and Theoren Fleury. After his first conviction in 1997, for the sexual abuse of Sheldon Kennedy and another junior player, he served 18 months of a 3.5-year sentence before being released from jail in 2000.  In 2007 he received a pardon for his offences from the National Parole Board.

The fact that he could be released before completing his original sentence is shameful. The sentence of two years he received for his second conviction is ridiculous. A repeat offender who used his position of power over impressionable young men to maintain a reign of abuse that affects them to this day deserves to be behind bars for far longer than two years.  Having received a pardon on his first conviction and having a even lesser sentence imposed after having been extradited from Mexico to face his accusers, I have even less faith that James’ will serve over a year in prison on his present sentence.

That he didn’t fight the extradition and he “expressed remorse” is of no consequence. He lives, possibly reviled, but apparently free of the terrible stresses imposed upon his victims.  I have no doubt that there are more of his victims suffering quietly in a similar manner to the four who managed to come forward.  Sheldon Kennedy and Theoren Fleury, have written about the extent to which alcohol and drugs have impaired their lives, both personal and professional. Nightmares and depression are as familiar to them as breathing.

On Tuesday, Graham James’ received a slap on the wrist.  The men he abused as teenagers have lived most of their lives in mental prisons of his making with no one to parole them. That the man that inflicted such ongoing pain could receive such minimal punishment and be free again to torment and destroy some other young life is, as the cliché goes ‘a travesty of justice.’  It is time that the laws regarding the minimum sentences for sex offenders, especially ones that prey upon the most vulnerable of our society, our children; are reviewed and revised.

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