Next Court Date Set For 5 Ex-Canadian World Junior Hockey Players In Sex Assault Case Ahead Of Police Newser | CBC News


A brief hearing for five former players on Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team was held Monday morning in London, Ont., via video link, with their lawyers appearing on their behalf and April 30 set as their next court appearance in the sexual assault case. Police in the southwestern Ontario city will address a news conference beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

London police hold news conference at 2 p.m. ET to give update on case of 4 NHlers, 1 ex-NHLer

Andrew Lupton · CBC News

· Posted: Feb 05, 2024 4:00 AM EST | Last Updated: 5 hours ago

Lawyers for ex-world junior players accused of sexual assault make virtual court appearanceLawyers for the five former world junior players facing sexual assault charges related to a 2018 incident appeared via video in a London, Ont., court, CBC’s Meagan Fitzpatrick reported. They will next appear on April 30.

WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced​ ​​​sexual violence or know someone affected by it.

A brief hearing for five former players on Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team was held Monday morning in London, Ont., via video link, with their lawyers appearing on their behalf and April 30 set as their next court appearance in the sexual assault case. 

None of the five players — Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils, Dillon Dubé of the Calgary Flames, Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers and former NHLer Alex Formenton — appeared on the video link in the procedural hearing.

But lawyers for all five were told to expect “substantial” disclosure of case information, including audio and video evidence, to be delivered to them on a hard drive by courier sometime Monday or Tuesday. 

The lawyers were also informed of a publication ban, requested by Crown attorney Heather Donkers, on any information that could identify a woman who is a complainant in the case, as well as two witnesses. 

All five players are charged with one count each of sexual assault, while McLeod is also charged with one count of being party to the offence. Their lawyers have said they plan to plead not guilty. 

It is alleged the incident occurred following a Hockey Canada gala in London in June 2018, when the players were honoured for their victory at the world junior hockey championship.

The court hearing was held as London police prepare to hold a previously announced news conference later in the day, starting at 2 p.m. ET. 

Here are some key legal questions raised by two lawyers not involved in the trial who spoke to CBC News about how the case might unfold.

Will the 5 defendants be tried together? Andrew Furgiuele, a Toronto-based defence lawyer who represented a junior hockey player in a separate sexual assault case, said he expects the five players will be tried together as part of a single court proceeding. 

While it’s possible one of the defendants could apply to have their case “severed” from the others, Furgiuele said such a move is becoming “increasingly rare” to avoid multiple trials.

What about the extra charge for McLeod?While all five players are charged with sexual assault, only McLeod faces an additional charge — being party to an offence. 

Furgiuele said “being party to” simply means aiding or encouraging a principal offence. It essentially leaves the Crown two routes to conviction for McLeod.

How long could a trial take? Carolyn Conron, a criminal lawyer based in London, said that based on Supreme Court decisions, criminal trials should happen within 30 months, minus any delays caused by the defence. If they go longer, the players’ legal teams could file requests for stays, arguing their clients didn’t get a trial in a timely manner. 

Judge alone, or judge and jury?Furgiuele said whether or not the players will be tried by a judge alone or by a judge and jury is one of the most difficult strategy decisions for defence lawyers in cases like this. If one of the defendants requests a jury, that’s how the case is tried.

“Judge and jury trials are the default for indictable offences,” said Furgiuele. “But if one of [the players] wants a jury, all of them are going to get a jury.” 

He said there are pros and cons to each option. Judge-alone trials can be quicker, while juries can be unpredictable.  

Will the players be released from NHL contracts? WATCH | NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took questions about the allegations — and the league’s response — ahead of the All-Star Weekend: 

Focus is to ‘get this right’ and not on players’ pay, NHL commissioner saysResponding to a question about whether the NHL could suspend and withhold pay to four players recently charged with sexual assault, league commissioner Gary Bettman said he was already ‘comfortable’ with the fact they were away from their teams and not currently playing.

Four of the players, excluding Formenton, are under contract with NHL teams until the end of this season. They are technically on paid leave from their teams. 

Now that they face charges, does this mean the NHL will move to drop them from their contracts? 

Eric Macramalla, an Ottawa-based lawyer and legal analyst who specializes in the sports industry, believes the NHL will just wait because the contracts will expire long before the trial starts. This avoids any challenge from the players’ union.

“The last thing you want to do if you’re a team is terminate or fire a player,” said Macramalla. 

That echoes what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday: That the league doesn’t need to suspend the players because they’ll soon no longer be members of their teams.

What about sentencing?Under the Criminal Code, sexual assault carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence. However, Furgiuele said, in cases involving first-time offenders, something in the neighbourhood of a two-year sentence is much more likely if there’s a conviction. He added that the sentence ultimately depends on the evidence presented at trial.  

What about the police news conference?London police haven’t spoken publicly about the charges, but they’ll be speaking at the news conference at RBC Place, the city’s downtown convention centre. 

Conron said she’ll pay close attention to whether or not police reveal any new evidence. Police closed the case in 2018, then reopened it in 2022 in response to public outrage following a lawsuit.

“One of the questions I would have is: What has changed?” said Conron. “Experienced officers have already looked into the allegations, interviewed witnesses and determined there was no reasonable grounds to lay a change. What’s changed between then and now? I’d be very curious to investigate that.”

For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services via this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.


Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

Follow Andrew on TwitterWith files from Karen Pauls

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