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When someone is arrested in Ontario, charged with a crime and put on trial, the span of time from when the alleged criminal act was committed to trial is often not that long. Of course, it takes time to prepare a trial and a defence, but most of the time the incident is fresh in the minds of witnesses. This is not always the case, however, and some cases go to trial over 40 years after a crime had been committed. With such a delay, there is a question as to whether defendants, witnesses and complainants can actually remember what happened.
Those concerns did not stop an Ontario justice from finding a former minor league hockey referee guilty of 14 counts of sexual offences that apparently happened in the 1960s. He was recently sentenced to seven years in prison even though he is now 75 years old. He was convicted of two counts of buggery and 12 counts of indecent assault.
The two complaining men are now in their 40s and 50s, which could call into question their recollections of the incidents. Furthermore, to put any witnesses on the stand would strain credulity; if the witnesses had noticed anything, they likely would have gone to police years ago.
What is truly concerning, however, is trying to defend an old case like this. How can a defendant remember enough to defend himself against charges that are over 40 years old? What can he say to convince a judge and jury that the accusations are false?
Unfortunately for this former referee, he was unable to clear his name and he will now spend the next seven years in prison.
Source: The Toronto Star, “Former hockey referee imprisoned for decades-old sex assault on boys,” Graham Slaughter, 18 Dec. 2013