Police to hold news conference on probe of 2018 sex assault allegations

January 24, 2024

By: Dale Carruthers, Ryan Pyette, lfpress.com

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“We understand that there is significant public interest in relation to a sexual assault investigation dating back to 2018. While we are unable to provide an update at this time, we anticipate that the London Police Service will hold a press conference on Monday, February 5, 2024 to share further details,” police said in a news release.

The announcement came hours after the Globe and Mail reported five members of the 2018 world junior team have been ordered to turn themselves in to face sexual assault charges related to an alleged group sexual assault on a woman in a London hotel room in June 2018, following a Hockey Canada fundraising gala in London.

The men have been given a timeline to surrender to police, says the report that cited two unnamed sources with knowledge of the investigation, neither of whom were identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media.

Five members of the 2018 world junior team, including a former London Knight, have been granted indefinite leaves of absence this week by the pro teams they play for.

A criminal defence lawyer who isn’t connected to the case said police will often ask people facing charges to turn themselves in rather than be arrested.

“They’re throwing these guys a bone because these guys are professional, multimillion-dollar athletes,” said Nick Cake, a former assistant Crown attorney in Sarnia.

The accused have likely contacted their lawyers, who will reach out to police to find out what type of release they can secure for their clients, he said.

“That’s one of the biggest things – are they going to be held for bail or are they going to be released?”

The sexual assault allegations against the players came to light in May 2022 when TSN reported on a complainant’s out-of-court settlement in a $3.5-million lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and eight unnamed players.

The woman who filed the lawsuit, identified as E.M. in court documents, alleged eight players, including members of the gold medal-winning 2018 world junior team, assaulted her inside a room at the Delta Armouries hotel after she met the players at Jack’s bar on Richmond Row on June 18, 2018, according to a statement of claim.

The players bought the woman drinks, including shots, causing her to become “increasingly intoxicated” and separated from her friend before she went back to the hotel with one of the players and initially engaged in consensual sexual acts, the 18-page lawsuit alleges.

Statements of claim include allegations not yet tested in court.

The other players were later invited into the room without the woman’s consent and proceeded to sexually assault her for several hours, the statement of claim says. The alleged sexual assault included intercourse and other sex acts, and the woman was spit on, slapped and ejaculated on, the statement says.

The players had brought golf clubs into the room, causing the woman to fear for her safety, and videotaped the plaintiff and told her not to report the incident to police, the lawsuit says.

London police, the statement says, were notified within a day of the woman leaving the hotel room where the alleged assault occurred. She spoke with a detective and underwent a physical examination at a hospital on June 22, 2018, the statement of claim says.

The woman met with the police again on June 26 and Aug. 21, 2018, and was told on Feb. 6, 2019, that no charges would be filed, the statement says.

The woman filed her lawsuit in April 2022. No statements of defence were ever filed because Hockey Canada quietly settled the lawsuit about a month later, touching off a controversy that engulfed Hockey Canada and became a national news story.

Scott Smith, Hockey Canada’s chief executive, departed in October 2022 and its board resigned as the organization faced pressure at federal hearings over its response to the alleged sexual assault. The organization lost major sponsors and was criticized by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal politicians over its conduct.

London police announced in July 2022 they were reopening the investigation and filed court documents to obtain permission for search warrants and production orders to obtain information and evidence.

Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers, the London law firm that represented E.M. in her civil lawsuit, released a statement Wednesday in response to the media reports about the criminal case involving its former client.

“Though we did have communications with the London Police Service as well as both the internal investigations of Hockey Canada and the National Hockey League, that was neither the focus nor mandate of our retainer. We are no longer retained by this client and consider our work completed. Accordingly, we cannot provide direct comment on her behalf,” the law firm said.

The law firm highlighted its commitment to taking on sexual assault cases, citing deterrence and accountability as concerns of its clients.

“Both the civil and criminal courts offer routes to accountability and deterrence, each with different means to achieve it. The criminal courts impose their unique sanctions mostly on individuals,” the statement said. “Civil court sanctions are primarily financial though the civil process can also expose information and result in institutional and public education on this issue. It is through adjudication or legal examination of these cases that such learning is achieved.”

Five members from the 2018 world junior team have been granted leaves of absences from their respective teams this week.

Former London Knight Alex Formenton was granted an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons by the Swiss hockey club Ambri-Piotta. The club has allowed the player to return to Canada, the team says on its website.

The club says it will not release any further statements on the matter at the moment.

The ex-Ottawa Senators forward is in his second season overseas since failing to come to terms on a new contract with the Senators. He has 10 goals and 17 points in 24 games this year with the Swiss team.

The 24-year-old from Barrie spent parts of three seasons with the Knights and was a key contributor to Canada’s world junior gold medal with two goals, four points and a plus-7 rating in seven tournament games in 2018.

Formenton’s departure comes on the heels of his world junior teammates Carter Hart, a goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers, and Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube being granted indefinite leaves of absence by their clubs.

“Carter Hart has requested and been granted an indefinite leave of absence citing personal reasons,” Flyers GM Daniel Briere said in a statement Tuesday. “The club will have no further comment at this time.”

Hart, a 25-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., is in his sixth NHL season and has a record of 12-9-3 with a 2.80 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in 26 games.

Dube, also in his sixth NHL season, has three goals and seven points in 43 games with the Flames this season. The Golden, B.C., native’s leave of absence was granted by Calgary to “attend to his mental health” and the Flames added he is “under the care of health professionals and requested that the forward’s privacy be respected.”

The New Jersey Devils announced Wednesday in a statement that forwards Michael McLeod and Cal Foote have requested and been granted indefinite leaves of absence from the team.

The club will have no further comment at this time.

McLeod, a former member of the OHL’s Mississauga Steelhead, is in his sixth season with the Devils. He has 10 goals and 19 points in 45 games this year.

Foote, originally a Tampa Bay first-rounder, has an assist in four games this season with New Jersey. The defenceman had spent most of the season with the American league’s Utica Comets.

Published on January 24, 2024

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