Lawyers seeking an edge in Frost case

STEVE SIMMONS,SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

NAPANEE -- In a small-town court, two large decisions will be rendered today that could severely impact the tone of the sexual exploitation case against former coach and player agent David Frost.

With one determination, presiding judge Justice Geoffrey Griffin must decide whether the admissibility of five Crown witnesses is relevant and whether they will be allowed to be heard in this case.

And Justice Griffin must determine whether to maintain a publication ban on the names of all witnesses who were under the age of 18 at the time of alleged sexual interference involving Frost, the former coach of the tier-two junior Quinte Hawks. Frost has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual exploitation involving teenaged girls and teenaged male hockey players.

With each of the rulings in limbo, the defence has almost nothing to lose. But the prosecution, led by Crown attorney Sandy Tse, could have its case made more difficult should the decisions go against them.

Normally, a publication ban is something the media should be fervently against. And yesterday, two media lawyers spoke to that very issue in court.

But this case against Frost centres on the testimony of women who were said to be party to the alleged sexual improprieties, women who were kids at the times of their alleged involvement, women who came forward with the understanding their names would not be made public.

What's right legally and what's right morally and what's right ethically may all be in conflict in this matter.

As Griffin said to Tse: "You're doing what any father would do. Just trying to keep the names out of the paper."

Several women, two of whom are listed as complainants in the case against Frost, sent e-mails to the Ontario Provincial Police, detailing why their names should not be made public. They listed issues such as public embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, worries about current employment, concern for family, panic attacks, shame of revealing their past and shielding their parents, as among the reasons why their identities should be protected.

"The sexual conduct evidence goes beyond the people we've named so far," said Tse.

But defence lawyer Marie Henein was hardly impressed.

"Many people get embarrassed in criminal law," said Henein. "Age is not a factor (about when they did this). They are 28-year-old women. They are adults.

"When you engage in threesomes and videotape yourself, when you look at the camera, spread your legs, and expose yourself three times, you can't then claim I'm a very private person."

Henein earlier made reference to one of the women lifting her top for the cameras and trying to do the same for other girls around her which prompted Tse to burst out of his chair and say: "It was at the prompting of Mr. Frost."

In many ways, this will be at the core of the case. The female witnesses came forward expecting a certain anonymity to be able to speak of their involvement with Frost and his then teenaged hockey players. While all the witnesses have been subpoened to appear, their testimony may not be as comfortable if they feel duped by the process.

"The evidence is not only weak, it's vague," Henein said, citing several precedents of what constitutes ruling for a publication ban. "The Crown isn't asking to ban publication of any evidence," said Tse. "Just the identity of the witnesses that will be called. The press will be able to report everything but the names."

Those decisions will be made this afternoon. By tomorrow the first Crown witnesses are expected to be called.


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