In his first public comments on the incident, the police chief in London, Ont., apologizes to a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by a member of Canada’s 2018 World Junior Hockey Team, saying it was not until police filed charges. He admitted it took years.
Director General Thai Truong spoke to the media on Monday afternoon, hours after the first trial of five team members accused of sexual assault last week.
“On behalf of London Police, I would like to sincerely apologize to the victim and her family for the length of time it has taken to get to this point,” he said. “As a police officer who has worked in this field for many years, I can tell you that this is a difficult and difficult situation for all victims and survivors of sexual violence.”
he He praised the woman’s “courage” and “incredible strength” in the five-and-a-half years since she first reported the alleged assault to police, saying that rather than calling her a “victim,” she He pointed out that he called it that because of his own wishes. complainant or survivor.
The woman, identified in court documents as EM, told police she was sexually assaulted at a London hotel in the early morning hours of June 19, 2018, after a Hockey Canada fundraiser. London police closed an initial investigation in 2019 without filing charges. It was reopened in 2022 after the suspicions became known to the public.
Chief Truong, who took over as chief executive of the London unit in June last year, was asked how initial investigators determined there was not enough evidence to proceed with the reopened investigation, which led to charges. He refused to explain what he did.
“We understand there are questions regarding the initial investigation,” he said. “It is important for me to understand that as Chief of Police, while I strive for transparency and accountability, I must ensure that I do not compromise the ongoing legal process. I have a place to provide those answers. And that time is not now.”
All five players charged in this case are current or former NHL players. Two of them, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote, play for the New Jersey Devils. The other, Carter Hart, is with the Philadelphia Flyers. Dillon Dube plays for the Calgary Flames. Alex Formenton, a former member of the Ottawa Senators, has spent the past two seasons playing in Switzerland.
All five denied wrongdoing, promised a vigorous defense, and all took leave from the team.
On Monday morning, lawyers for the five players appeared via video conference in the Ontario Court of Justice in London, making their clients’ first appearance before a judge since they were charged.
In her brief appearance, Assistant Crown Attorney Heather Donkers sought and obtained a publication ban. The true identity of EM. The court also scheduled the players’ next court date for April 30th.
EM is represented by Karen Verhumere, a former Crown Assistant who currently represents sexual assault complainants. She issued her first public statement on behalf of her client since being charged.
“It takes incredible courage for victims of sexual assault to come forward to the police and engage the criminal justice system,” Belhumeur said. “While that is certainly true for EM, she remains determined to see this process through to its conclusion. We ask the media and others to respect her privacy and dignity as this matter progresses through the courts.” I just ask that you do it.”
EM’s allegations became public knowledge three years after the initial investigation concluded. She recently filed a $3.55 million lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and eight unnamed junior players. In May 2022, TSN reported that the lawsuit had been settled for an undisclosed amount. The incident sparked a national outcry, a parliamentary committee hearing and a high-profile departure from hockey’s governing body, Hockey Canada.
In July 2022, the Globe and Mail reported that Hockey Canada maintains a multi-million dollar reserve known as the National Equity Fund to pay out settlements in lawsuits related to sexual assault allegations. , reported that the fund was funded by registration fees. The Globe also reported on a text message exchange between one of the players and EM in the days after the alleged assault, as well as a video taken in his room that night.
Against this backdrop, Truong’s predecessor, Chief Steve Williams, began a review of the initial investigation on July 20, 2022. Investigators said at a press conference Monday that the review yielded new evidence that ultimately led to criminal charges. last week.
Detective Sergeant Katherine Dunn, head of London Police’s sexual assault and child abuse unit and supervisor of the junior hockey investigation, said at a press conference on Monday that she has been appointed to reinvestigate the case in 2022. . She joined the force in fall 2020, but she was not involved in the initial investigation.
Det. Sergeant Dunn added that after the case was reopened, her team “explored investigative opportunities” that were not pursued in the 2018 investigation. He said additional witnesses were interviewed and new evidence was collected.
“I can confirm that some of this evidence was not available at the time the investigation concluded in 2019,” she said. She declined to say whether that evidence was unavailable because police did not investigate.
“We know this is going to be frustrating for everyone. Everyone wants answers. But we cannot compromise the investigation by providing specific details,” the investigator said. . Sergeant Dan said.
EM’s 2022 statement of claim against Hockey Canada mentions eight players allegedly involved in the incident. Asked if the police intended to file further charges or if some of those players cooperated with the police investigation, Det. Sergeant Dunn said investigators only bring charges when they have reasonable grounds to believe a player has committed an offence.He added that there were “various levels of participation” in the investigation and said EM had cooperated throughout the entire process.
At multiple points during Monday’s press conference, Truong was asked questions about hockey and hockey culture.
In response, the Commissioner said the service is not focused on questions about Hockey Canada or the game of hockey itself. “This is an investigation where there is a victim of sexual assault,” he said. “I’m not a hockey player. I don’t know anything about hockey. This is a sexual assault investigation.”
Det. Sergeant Dunn confirmed that her force regularly conducts consent training in the London community, including with hockey teams.
Katherine Henderson, who was appointed CEO of Hockey Canada in July, issued a statement Monday pledging the organization to act differently in the future.
“Hockey Canada recognizes that we have acted too slowly in the past, and we need to ensure that we put in place the steps necessary for Hockey Canada’s recovery to bring about the meaningful change that Canadians expect from us.” “We recognize that we need to work diligently and urgently to ensure that we are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all participants on and off the ice,” said Henderson. ” he said.
On Friday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters the league had completed its own investigation into the June 2018 incident. However, the NHL said it would not make its findings public as the matter is currently before the courts.
Police in London, Ont., spoke for the first time Monday about charges brought against five former junior hockey players for sexual assault in 2018. The Globe’s Robin Doolittle summed up London’s police chief’s statement, which included an apology to the alleged victim. However, he declined to comment in detail on why the investigation was closed in 2019 and reopened in 2022. The players’ lawyers denied the charges.