July 18th, 2024

Crown seeking early case resolution for high school football players accused of assaulting teammate

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 25, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Another brief court hearing was held, and another adjournment granted for four Lethbridge high school students charged with assaulting a fellow student last fall.

During the hearing Wednesday in Lethbridge youth court, Crown Prosecutor Bob Morrison explained he has reviewed the several thousand pages of disclosure from the police investigation and will, over the next few days, inform lawyers for the accused how the Crown is planning to proceed, and what it will recommend in the way of an early case resolution.

An ECR is typically a proposal from either the Crown or defence to resolve a case without the need for a trial.

“I just want an opportunity to meet with the affected parties to advise them of how the Crown’s going to be proceeding, as well,” Morrison said.

The students, who are members of the Chinook High School football team and cannot be identified under a court-ordered publication ban, are each charged with sexual assault, assault and unlawful confinement.

Police reported that on Oct. 3 of last year a 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 what they described as a “weapon,” although they didn’t provide a description.

“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, and no other members of the football team were involved.

The four boys, who are under 18 years of age, were charged several days after the Oct. 3 incident, then released from custody and ordered not to have any contact with the victim, who is 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.

The Crown previously said it will proceed by indictment, which is more serious than summary procedure and carries higher penalties.

The Lethbridge School Division, which consulted with an expert in trauma response, cancelled its football program for the season, and expressed concern that some of the players were being harassed.

“Members of the football team, coaches and even families of players, have been targeted for hurtful and misinformed accusations and harassment,” the division said in a statement in November. “Anyone involved in this type of behaviour needs to stop immediately.

“We are disappointed this misinformation has been used to negatively impact how members of the football team are perceived and we apologize we were not able to do more to stem the tide of misinformation.”

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