SPORTS

Crown has 30 days to decide whether to appeal Graham James's sentence

03/21/2012 04:55 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - A spokesperson for Manitoba Justice says the Crown is reviewing the prison sentence handed to disgraced junior hockey coach Graham James for sexual abuse.

The Crown has 30 days to decide whether to appeal.

James was sentenced Tuesday for repeated sexual assaults on retired NHL star Theo Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt, when the two played junior hockey for James in the 1980s and '90s.

The sentence sparked immediate outrage across the country from people who suggested it is too lenient.

James could be eligible for day parole in September and full parole in November. Federal law allows people to apply for full parole after serving one-third of their sentence.

James pleaded guilty to assaulting Fleury and Holt. In the 1990s, he also admitted to molesting Sheldon Kennedy, who would also go on to play in the NHL, and another player. James served about 18 months for that conviction.

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews urged Manitoba to examine the most-recent decision carefully.

"I thought the position of the Crown attorney at court, in asking for the six-year sentence, was actually quite a reasonable one, and needless to say many people are disappointed at the sentence that was imposed," said Toews, who was in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday to announce an RCMP policing deal.

The Toronto-based Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness said it is shocked and disappointed at the sentence.

"When someone has the courage to come forward, like Sheldon Kennedy or Theo Fleury, and open themselves up before the public and the media, and then see such a light sentence given – what does it say to other, less famous people who want to come forward?" the centre said in a release.

"Our courts continue to be far too soft on crimes against children ... the courts seem to have an aversion to giving out a maximum sentence which would act as a deterrent to someone who might harm a child."

Toews said the federal Conservatives have worked hard to toughen punishment for sex offenders.

"Our government has consistently ensured pedophiles and those that would exploit our children are held accountable by the elimination of things like conditional sentences, more commonly referred to as house arrest, for those types of crimes."

The abuse awareness centre likened the James sentence to that given to Gordon Stuckless, who was convicted in 1997 for sex assault on 24 boys while he was an usher at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto between 1969 and 1988.

Stuckless was granted statutory release after serving two-thirds of a five-year-sentence.

Martin Kruze, a victim who came forward and brought the Garden sex abuse scandal to light, ended up killing himself.

The centre said other alleged victims of Stuckless and another usher, John Roby, are still coming forward.

"It is probable ... that many more survivors will come forward in years to come to say they had been abused by Graham James."

MORE:cpSports