A Whitehorse man facing charges of assault on young people he supervised as a referee has been placed on a probation order.
Justice Kathleen Caldwell stopped short of a sentence leaving the man with a criminal record in a Sept. 27 ruling.
Before the sentence was handed down, the court heard about the tickling, horseplay and other behavior that both the minors and their parents considered inappropriate and reported to the police.
In July, Geoffrey Matthew Muldoon, 44, entered a guilty plea to a single assault charge with five young people, whose identities are protected by a publication ban, named as complainants.
An agreed statement of facts filed with the court details how an investigation was launched after one of the victim’s mothers entered a change room at a sports facility to find Muldoon carrying her son over his shoulder while they were the only ones in the room.
At the time of the offences he pleaded guilty to, Muldoon was a senior referee with a minor sports association. The statement of facts notes that the sports association had a policy in place stipulating that adult staff were not to be alone with minors. In each of the incidents described in court documents, Muldoon was alone in a change room with the complainant.
In other incidents, Muldoon is described picking up the complainants, putting their feet in the shower, tickling their feet and in one case telling one of the minors to slide a coin along the locker room floor using his nose. In court documents the complainants reported being left feeling “uncomfortable,” “violated” and “creeped out” by the incidents. One said that he felt the incident went beyond the hazing common in sports and was beyond typical locker room pranks.
At the Sept. 27 sentencing, presided over by Caldwell, Muldoon’s lawyer and the crown counsel offered fairly similar sentencing recommendations with the key distinction that one would leave him with a criminal record and one would not.
Crown counsel Jane Park recommended a suspended jail sentence and two years of probation with conditions including an order barring him from one-on-one contact with youth under 16 years of age.
Jennifer Budgell, representing Muldoon, asked the judge for a conditional discharge that would impose a similar term of probation and mandatory counseling while sparing him a criminal record. Budgell explained that a criminal record was likely to adversely impact the renewal of his license required to continue working for a security guard company.
Budgell said Muldoon has no plans to seek another role with a youth sports organization again in the future. The court heard a description of the way his guilty plea would show up on an RCMP vulnerable sector check even in the absence of a sentence carrying a criminal record.
Caldwell considered victim impact statements penned by the minors’ parents, letters in support of Muldoon from his employer and friends and a report on disciplinary action taken against him. Caldwell noted that while Muldoon’s actions meet the legal definition of assault, they are on the low end of the spectrum. The position of trust and authority he held over the complainants was discussed as an aggravating factor.
The assaults are Muldoon’s first offence, but the court heard about a previous disciplinary action against him by the Ontario College of Teachers after he provided alcohol to minors more than 10 years ago.
As she gave her verdict, Caldwell stressed that incidents for which Muldoon was being sentenced were in no way the fault of either the five minors or their parents. She told the court she would not impose a sentence leading to a criminal record that would impact Muldoon’s employment and ability to contribute to society.
Although she granted the conditional discharge, Caldwell sentenced Muldoon to three years probation, which she said is the maximum allowed by law in a case like this.
During his probation, Muldoon will be barred from one-on-one contact with people under 13 and will not be able to be involved with youth sports in any capacity. He will have to meet regularly with a probation officer, attend counseling and abide by other conditions.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org