WARNING: This article contains details of abuse.
A renowned Canadian pairs skating coach was sentenced Monday to 12 months in prison for sexual assault and gross indecency against a teenage athlete in the 1980s.
Quebec Court Judge Josee Belanger told a Montreal court that Richard Gauthier deserves a harsh sentence due to factors including the victim’s age and the position of authority and trust Gauthier had over him.
“The fact that the victim was a child increases the degree of responsibility of the aggressor, and that is due to the vulnerability of children,” he said.
Gauthier, 61, was convicted in January of two charges dating back to 1984 or 1985 involving the skater, who was 14 or 15 at the time of the crimes. He was acquitted of a third charge of indecent assault against the victim, whose identity is covered by a publication ban.
In court, Gauthier was accused of having bathed naked with the victim, showered with her, and slept naked with her on a bed in the defendant’s residence.
Gauthier spent more than three decades coaching world-class pairs skaters. He was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame as a coach in 2015, although he was expelled from Skate Canada following his conviction.
The victim ‘idolized’ Gauthier
Several prominent members of the skating community testified in court on Gauthier’s behalf. Those statements, while sincere, “well illustrate the extent to which sexual violence against children can be invisible in the eyes of society,” Belanger said in his ruling Monday.
Belanger noted that the victim had “idolized” her coach and had convincingly described the lasting impacts of the assaults, including depression, difficulties with intimate relationships and sleep problems.
The victim was present in court and cried while the sentence was read. She then turned her head and watched as Gauthier was handcuffed and detained at the end of the hearing.
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing, the victim said that while he struggled with the aftermath of the assault, Gauthier was able to enjoy 40 years as a celebrated coach of Olympic and world-ranked athletes.
“He was able to enjoy this beautiful life and I didn’t understand that,” she said. “Regardless of the outcome, I experienced what I experienced and that will never change.”
However, the victim said speaking out was “the best decision I ever made” and said he hoped his story would inspire others to speak out before him so they can more quickly access help and healing.
Speaking out also “forces people to speak up. It helps people continue to come forward,” he said, noting that he was motivated to do so after seeing other victims speak out.
“Error in judgment,” says Gauthier
Gauthier’s legal team had asked that he be given a suspended sentence or a jail term that could be served on weekends, which Belanger said would have been “inappropriate” and would have minimized the crimes.
However, he also said the Crown’s suggestion of 18 months was too high given numerous mitigating factors, including the fact that Gauthier was 23 at the time of the crimes, had no criminal record and was considered a “low” risk. or very low.” of recidivism. He also lost his career and was recently working at a pizzeria, he noted.
As part of his defense, Gauthier told the court earlier this year that the acts with the victim took place in a different era, when personal relationships between coaches and athletes were less regulated.
He denied committing any sexual acts toward the victim, but said he had lacked judgment by putting himself in a position where he was alone with his student outside of a training or competition environment.
“An error in judgment on my part at age 23, when life and morals were different, ruined my reason for living: teaching and my knowledge,” he wrote in a letter read at his sentencing hearing in August.
Gauthier’s attorney had no comment after the sentencing. Prosecutor Christine Desjarlais said she was pleased with the judge’s decision, which she said sends a strong signal that “crimes against children should not be tolerated.”
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted through crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Partnership to End Violence Canada Database. If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety or the safety of others around you, call 911.