Three teenagers will learn their sentences today in the case of locker room sexual assaults at an all-boys private school in Toronto.
The incidents sparked debate across the country about bullying and extreme hazing after seven students were initially charged in the case stemming from three separate incidents at St. Michael’s College School in 2018.
The three former students who will appear in Ontario Court of Justice today all pleaded guilty in October to assault with a weapon and sexual assault with a weapon. One of them also pleaded guilty to the additional charge of making child pornography, having filmed the incident on his phone.
Two of the boys are 16 years old, and one is 15, CBC News has confirmed.
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, none of the defendants or their victims can be identified.
Justice Brian Weagant heard sentencing arguments in the case last month.
Incidents occurred over 3 months
The details in the agreed statement of facts are graphic, describing three different incidents in the school’s locker room involving members of one of the school’s football teams.
In the first case, in September 2018, a student was changing his clothes when he was surrounded by several people and “picked up by the arms and legs and swung around,” court documents said.
The group put him on the floor and pulled down his football pants then struck him across the buttocks with a broomstick.
A month later, the same boy was victimized again, this time with the broomstick shoved in between his buttocks and into his anus several times. This incident was also recorded but then deleted after he pleaded with one of the accused to erase the video.
The third incident, in November 2018, involved a different victim, who was not on the school’s football team. He was also anally penetrated with a broom handle, an assault that was also filmed and then distributed. That boy’s parents wrote a victim impact statement, which was read out in court by Crown attorney Erin McNamara.
Victim’s parent: ‘It’s never really over’
“It is one thing to be violently assaulted, penetrated and humiliated,” one of the parents wrote, “but it’s a whole other thing to know it is being recorded so that other people can see your humiliation … so it’s never really over.”
They wrote that they can’t differentiate between normal teenage emotion in their son and the effects of the trauma of being sexually assaulted.
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. Lawyers for the teens have asked for two years’ probation with no jail time.
They told the court their clients are remorseful and ashamed.
The court also heard that after the boys were arrested, they received death threats on social media and that several suffer from anxiety and depression.
“These kids were so young and they couldn’t fully appreciate their behaviour,” Rachel Lichtman, the lawyer for one of the accused, told reporters outside court.
Schuman said while being incarcerated may be thought of as a harsher sentence, probation conditions can be onerous, such as requiring them to be home at 6 or 7 p.m., sometimes for a period of more than a year, and include a ban on social media or involvement in school activities.
“I suspect that some of them … would actually prefer a short term of incarceration to having their social life wrecked for two or three years as a teenager.”
Four other teenagers were initially charged in the case. One of them had his charges withdrawn.
The cases of two other accused have concluded, but the Ministry of the Attorney General has refused to disclose those outcomes.
Another accused is set to go to trial next March.