Sentence for Graham James upped to five years on appeal

Sex criminal, Graham James, pushes a camera out of his way while making his entrance to court today via the Woodsworth Building in Winnipeg



WINNIPEG - Manitoba's Court of Appeal has ordered that disgraced former junior hockey coach Graham James be sentenced to five years in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing former NHL star Theo Fleury and Todd Holt.

The decision Friday overturns a two-year prison sentence imposed last year.

The high court ruled the sentence was "clearly unfit" and was owed "no deference."

James pleaded guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting Fleury and his cousin Todd Holt between 1983 and 1994. He was sentenced last March to two years in prison, four years less than recommended by the Crown.

Holt had just finished getting a haircut when he received an e-mail on his phone alerting him to the news.

"It was a shock, it was exciting, it was little bit of everything," Holt said from his Cochrane, AB home.

A third man, Greg Gilhooly, was also abused by James but charges involving him were stayed as part of a plea bargain between James and the Crown.

Prosecutors argued Carlson misapplied the totality principle, giving James too much credit for his 1997 conviction and 3 1/2-year sentence for similar offences.

The totality principle is invoked in cases where multiple convictions might result in sentences that could be considered "crushing."

Defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg argued James co-operated with police and never denied there were more victims. James refused to specifically identify Fleury "out of respect" until he chose to come forward himself, Roitenberg said.

Carlson was "overly fixated on what she described on several occasions as the unique nature of this case," Justice Alan MacInness wrote on behalf of the appeals court. "The fact is, however, that every sentencing is unique.

"What happened in 1997 was clearly relevant information for consideration by the judge in determining what an appropriate sentence should be in respect of the offences against Mr. Fleury and Mr. Holt, but it was an error to give that factor the pre-eminent focus which she did," MacInness said.

A "fit and proper" sentence is eight years - four years for each victim to be served consecutivel y- minus three years for totality, MacInness said.

James "rebuilt his life" following completion of his initial prison sentence and there is no evidence he has reoffended, MacInness said.

"In my view, an eight-year sentence without adjustment for totality would ... be a crushing sentence not in keeping with the accused's record and prospects," he said.


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