The Sudbury Star
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 5:55:28 EST AM
The six-month house arrest, to which William “Hod” Marshall was sentenced this week in two historic cases of sexual abuse against Saskatchewan residents, was no sentence at all, says a civil lawyer representing victims of the Basilian priest.
Rob Talach, of London-based Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers, was one of 70 people who protested outside the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor on Monday, calling for criminal courts to hand down harsher sentences to child sex offenders.
Marshall, 90, was a teacher and principal at St. Charles College in Sudbury for years, and several of the 17 victims Talach is representing in civil suits are from Sudbury.
In 2011, in what Talach called a “sweetheart deal” struck between the Crown and Marshall’s defence, the priest was sentenced to two years in jail after pleading guilty to 17 cases of sexual assault against former students.
Marshall served 16 months in prison — “less than a month per kid” — Talach said of the 17 victims the priest admitted abusing.
Part of the deal was no more sexual abuse charges could be laid against Marshall in Ontario, Talach said Tuesday.
Under a deal worked out between the attorney general of Saskatchewan and Ontario courts, the two cases of indecent assault against teenage boys in the western province were heard in Windsor, where other criminal charges against Marshall were handled.
Talach said he has sent other alleged victims to police in different jurisdictions to file complaints against Marshall, and they have been told no more charges will be laid against the priest.
“He’s got a get out of free jail card in Ontario,” said Talach.
The house arrest Marshall is serving will cause no change in his life, said Talach. “He’s going to hang around the Basilian centre anyway,” where he says three other offenders reside.
“So, he’s going to play gin rummy and euchre with these other sex offenders. It’s really no punishment.”
Talach said the judge in these charges, Justice Lloyd Dean, “in the face of this public outcry” from victims protesting outside the court, gave the priest six months of house arrest.
About half the protesters were sex abuse victims, three of them victims of Marshall, said Talach. One of those three “should never have been a victim” if the order to which Marshall belongs had acted upon earlier complaints of sexual misconduct against him.
Protesters were trying to deliver three messages to the justice system and to the public, said the lawyer. The first was “sex crime equals real time,” said Talach. “That was the message for the day. ‘Look, give this guy some meaningful time’ ” in prison.
Protesters also called upon courts to “criminalize coverup” in churches and other institutions, making them criminally accountable for the actions of their priests.
“Let’s get some laws on the books so we can go after corporations,” said Talach.
A third theme was: “Stop the secrets. Speak out against sexual abuse,” said Talach. “The only way we’re going to cure this is to get it out in the open.”
A frustrated Talach said he concluded, Monday, the justice system is “so broken,” he doesn’t know how to fix it.
Even though many people believe a priest or anyone in a position of authority should serve jail time for sexual assaults, courts look back on precedents, some as far back as the 1980s, when sentences for sex crimes were light.
“There is no question … we want to see sex offenders go to jail,” said Talach. “So how did our criminal justice system become so disconnected from the man on the street?”
Countries prosecute war criminals who are older than Marshall, said Talach, putting them in jail.
“I don’t consider these guys that much different.”
He called the six-month house arrest “a slap in the face” to the Saskatchewan victims.
The Order of St. Basil did not reply to an email placed by The Star asking for comment on the Marshall sentencing.
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