CALGARY - Thereís no question Graham James is a vile individual who deserves to be punished greatly for the crimes he committed on young boys in the 1980s and 1990s.
No child should ever be subjected to the unwanted sexual advances of any adult, but it is made doubly worse when it is a trusted person of authority.
Couple that with the macho image hockey players are forced to portray and itís no wonder Jamesí victims, including former NHLers Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy, have spent most of their lives battling demons.
The issue now for a Winnipeg judge is what is the suitable punishment for the four-time offender when he returns to court March 20.
Some have questioned why the Crown isnít pursuing a dangerous offender tag for the disgraced pedophile coach, who was sentenced to 31/2 years in 1997 for abusing Kennedy and another player.
But the fact is, James just doesnít qualify for the tag.
As an admitted pedophile, thereís no question James continues to pose a danger to any young boys he comes into contact with.
Pedophiles canít be cured ó they are sick individuals who get sexual gratification out of either the thought of, or actual sexual contact with children. James is, in reality, a single moment of succumbing to his urges from offending once again ó and that makes him a potential danger.
But for the Crown to pursue a dangerous offender designation, they would need more than just the possibility James would once again prey on the innocent. After all, everyone in society is a potential victim of their own weakness at any given time.
An accountant who dips into the company well when he thinks no one will notice, the husband who lashes out in anger at his spouse, only to regret his behaviour later, the teenage girl who believes she can get away with shoplifting that blouse. All of us are prey to temptation, but most of us let common sense prevail, realizing the consequences ó whether just remorse, or penal ó arenít worth the momentary gratification.
Obviously, James didnít care about the consequences when he decided to deprive four young boys of their innocence decades ago.
He put himself ahead of all others ó his wants and needs to be satisfied despite the horrific damage it would bring.
But that was then and this is now.
While James remains an incurable pedophile, he has not, at least to anyoneís knowledge, committed any of his atrocities in recent times.
He has effectively suppressed his urges to victimize young boys for nearly two decades. That certainly doesnít make him a pillar of society, but it leaves him falling short of the type of individual who under Canadian law can be locked up indefinitely as an ongoing danger.
Simply put, James has, apparently, learned to control his deviancy.
Even if the prosecution had at one time successfully argued he was a dangerous offender ó the reasons to keep him locked up would no longer exist.
Had the Crown sought a dangerous offender assessment of James the result would be a finding he was controllable in the community, meaning the application would fail in its infancy.
While he will be punished for his abuse of Fleury in the mid-1980s, and Fleuryís cousin, Todd Holt, between 1989 and 1994, James has history on his side.
Had he committed a second series of offences more recently, after having been punished and paroled (and unfortunately in this case even pardoned) for his abuse of Kennedy and the other victim, James would be treated far differently than he will be.
At the very least, James appears to have learned his lesson. As a pedophile heíll always pose a risk, but he falls short of being a dangerous offender.