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Student spared jail for sexual 'hazing'

Involved in attacks at private school

A university student will not be saddled with a criminal record for his role in a series of sexually explicit "hazing" incidents at a prestigious Winnipeg private school.

The 21-year-old man, who can't be named under a court-ordered publication ban, was the last of four accused to plead guilty to his role in the 2009 attacks at St. John's-Ravenscourt School. The case made headlines across the country and prompted a review of school policies and procedures.

The accused, who was 18 at the time, admitted to six charges of assault with a weapon. He returned to court Tuesday for sentencing.

Provincial court associate chief Judge Janice leMaistre rejected the Crown's bid for a provincial jail sentence, saying this was clearly "uncharacteristic behaviour" for an otherwise exemplary young man. She agreed with the defence request for a conditional discharge, which will allow him to maintain a clean criminal record.

Defence lawyer Sheldon Pinx argued his client would have great difficulty pursuing a medical degree if he was given a record. The accused is now in university in Saskatchewan. As part of his discharge, he must perform 120 hours of community service and write letters of apology to his victims. He admitted participating in the group attacks in an attempt to "achieve power, status and control," leMaistre found.

The young man has suffered extreme depression and social isolation since his mother was killed in a car accident when he was 12 years old. He was in the vehicle at the time but survived. His father quickly remarried and sent the boy off to private school, hoping it would be a positive experience. It turned out to be anything but, court was told.

"I am satisfied he will not reoffend," leMaistre said Tuesday.

Three other younger teens previously admitted to the same charges and were given probation under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The Crown dropped numerous other charges against the four accused, including multiple counts of sexual assault, forcible confinement and uttering threats.

Sources told the Free Press at least some of the alleged victims have since left the school or the country, which resulted in some of the charges not being pursued.

Police identified at least 12 students at SJR who were abused between September and December 2009, court previously heard. The four accused admitted attacking six of them with a wooden walking stick, which was "pressed against their buttocks and anal area."

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