July 21st, 2024

Lawyers for accused high school football players make court appearance

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on October 26, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Lawyers representing four Lethbridge high school students accused of sexually assaulting another student on the same football team made a brief appearance in youth court Wednesday.

The lawyers, three from Lethbridge and one from Calgary, requested an adjournment and told court they were still waiting to receive information about the case from the Crown’s office.

“We have requested disclosure; however, we have not yet received it,” Lethbridge lawyer Justin Dean told Justice Kristin Ailsby.

“I would suggest a month-long adjournment is necessary.”

The Crown prosecutor agreed with an adjournment to Nov. 22, and pointed out the Crown’s office also needs to receive disclosure from the police before it can disperse it to the lawyers.

The students, who are members of the Chinook High School football team but cannot be identified under a court-ordered publication ban, are each charged with sexual assault, assault and unlawful confinement. The two 17-year-old boys and two 16-year-old boys were charged several days after the Oct. 3 incident, then released from custody and ordered not to have any contact with the victim – also a member of the team – and not go to the high school or be on its grounds. They were not required to attend court on Wednesday.

Police reported that on Oct. 3 a 16-year-old boy was forcibly confined and sexually assaulted in a locker room at the high school after school hours. The following day police searched the school and seized a “weapon.”

“There is no evidence to suggest any ongoing risk to other students in the relation of this matter and the school remains open,” Staff Sgt. Pete Christos said during a news conference Oct. 10.

He added the incident was not part of a hazing ritual, and no other members of the football team were involved.

The Lethbridge School Division posted an update on its website Monday and said it has cancelled its football program for the season. The decision was made after consulting with an expert in trauma response.

“We have come to understand that we need more time to evaluate and respond to the impact this incident is having on our school community,” The school division’s statement reads. “Given this, it was our view that we are not ready to return to play.”

The division said the incident impacts more than just the football team and requires a broader response.

“We will come together as a division and examine factors that have the potential to compromise the safety of not only our student-athletes, but students across the division. We will learn and grow from this.”

Chinook students who may be struggling or require additional support are encouraged to contact the Chinook High School Wellness Team in person, by phone at 403-320-7565 or online.

“If any member of our school communities need support related to sexual assault or other issues, they can contact their school wellness team, trusted teachers or counsellors or school administration.”

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