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3 former St. Michael’s students to be sentenced in sex assault case

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 19th, 2019

Three former students of an all-boys Catholic school in Toronto are expected to be sentenced Thursday for their roles in an assault and two sexual assaults on campus.

Court has heard that the three incidents occurred in a locker room at St. Michael’s College School last year.

The three teens pleaded guilty in October to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon. One of the teens, who recorded the sex assault on his cellphone, also pleaded guilty to making child pornography.

An agreed statement of facts says there were two separate incidents at the private school last fall where boys on one of the school’s football teams pinned down two different victims and sexually assaulted them with a broom handle.

The Crown is seeking a sentence of 12 to 15 months in jail for two teens and 10 to 12 months for the third boy. The lawyers for each teen have asked for two years probation with no jail time.

None of the accused or the victims can be identified due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The scandal erupted in November 2018 when Toronto police launched an investigation into allegations of sexual assault and assault on campus. Investigators said they uncovered eight incidents and proceeded with charges against seven boys for three of those incidents.

All three incidents were captured on cellphone video, and two of them were widely shared both within and outside the school.

The allegations sparked a national conversation about bullying and had a profound effect on the school’s community.

One boy could not bring himself to write a victim impact statement because it would force him to relive the experience, court heard last month.

The boy’s parents said the teen struggled since he was sexually assaulted with a broom handle by a group of boys on Nov. 7, 2018.

“He now feels he carries a very heavy stigma,” they wrote in a victim impact statement read out in court. “We have had to carry this burden alone.”

The other victim declined to provide a victim impact statement, but his plight became public after he and his family filed a lawsuit against the school, three former students, the board, the Basilian Fathers who run the institution, the coaches and administration.

The boy said in court documents the bullying and sexual assault he suffered at the hands of his schoolmates left him struggling with depression and severe mental health issues.

The fallout hit the school’s administration, with the principal and the board president resigning amid criticism of its handling of the case.

An independent committee set up to examine the culture at St. Michael’s found that bullying remained a “systemic” problem despite extensive measures taken by the school in wake of the scandal. It also found that hazing was not a problem.

The committee issued a 123-page report in August that offered 36 recommendations, including developing a comprehensive strategy to address bullying and robust staff training to deal with the issue. The school promised to adopt all the recommendations.

The charges against two other students have been dropped, while another one has pleaded guilty and received a two-year probationary sentence with no jail time.

The seventh teen is scheduled to go to trial next year.

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