Warning: This story contains details of an alleged sexual assault.
Bernard “Bernie” Lynch’s sexual assault trial is now in the hands of Judge Peter T. Bergbusch.
The judge has to decide whether the former junior hockey coach sexually assaulted and assaulted a 17-year-old in August 1988, after lawyers made their closing arguments in the trial in Regina Court of Queen’s Bench on Friday.
Lead Crown prosecutor Chris White told Bergbusch that the plaintiff testified to be heard and not in an attempt to persuade the judge.
White said the plaintiff came forward and went through the public process of testifying in court because he believes it is the right thing to do.
“He’s not motivated by money, fame or notoriety,” White said.
Lynch has almost 50 years of experience coaching hockey but, in the summer of 1988, he was named the newly minted assistant coach of the Regina Pats.
His first course of action was to try to recruit a 17-year-old prospect from a small town in Saskatchewan.
Any information that could identify the complainant or his then-girlfriend, the two witnesses called by the Crown, is protected by a publication ban.
The teenager was invited to participate in a hockey school offered by the Regina Pats that took place between August 7 and 13, 1988.
During the four-day trial, Bergbusch heard two different stories.
The complainant testified that he arrived in Regina on August 7 and expected to stay with Lynch that night, before moving to a hotel the next night.
The complainant said that while he was at Lynch’s apartment, he was offered beer and, despite refusing several times, was eventually pressured to drink.
He said Lynch encouraged him to strip naked and walk in front of the apartment’s patio door, and that he eventually did so.
Under questioning by White, the complainant testified that he later attempted to sober up by taking a shower.
The complainant said he believed the bathroom door was locked, but that Lynch eventually joined him in the shower.
The complainant testified that he did not want any romantic or sexual relationship with Lynch and that he had not invited Lynch to join him in the shower.
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The junior hockey coach then grabbed the teen’s penis, the complainant said.
He testified that he repeatedly said no, but that Lynch continued to touch him. Lynch then told the teen they should masturbate together, the complainant testified. He also said Lynch grabbed her hand and placed it on her genitals.
The complainant said he agreed to masturbate Lynch after being told that if he did, it would be the end.
The next day at hockey camp, Lynch joked around and physically touched the teen, the complainant testified. This included hitting the perpetrator on the buttocks, hitting him on the genitals with his keychain and punching him on the shoulder.
When testifying in his own defense, Lynch denied that the events described by the complainant ever occurred.
He said the complainant arrived in Regina on August 5, 1988 and was dropped off at a hotel instead of staying at Lynch’s home.
The former coach said he didn’t actually coach at the hockey school, even though he advertised himself as an instructor in a brochure earlier that summer.
Lynch said he flew to Calgary on Aug. 6, 1988, to participate in a clinic, before becoming a coach, at a Hockey Canada festival in Calgary from Aug. 12-20.
As evidence, the defense provided a photograph of the team Lynch coached. Lynch identified himself in the photo.
Chris White told the court that the testimony offered by Lynch was illogical.
White said it doesn’t make sense for Lynch to travel a full week before the festival to participate in a clinic that was held nine days before the team he coached played its first game.
“The only thing that was consistent [in Lynch’s testimony] was his inconsistency,” Chris White said.
Defense lawyer Andrew Hitchcock argued that Lynch is innocent until proven guilty and that the Crown had failed to meet the legal requirement for a criminal trial of “beyond a reasonable doubt”;
Hitchcock questioned why his client would do all the alleged actions and risk his status and future.
“Even predators try to avoid detection,” Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock said there is no corroboration of the plaintiff’s testimony that he stayed with Lynch at his hotel or stayed with Lynch in a hotel room, and there is no corroboration that Lynch participated in the hockey school.
He noted that the complainant couldn’t even remember who else was at the alleged hockey school.
White responded by saying this event occurred 35 years ago and that the complainant was not memorizing faces because he was dealing with the aftermath of the alleged assault.
The complainant testified that he went to police about the alleged assault decades after it allegedly occurred because he had started watching news stories about Lynch’s behavior.
He said he felt an obligation to speak out and make sure Lynch didn’t hurt anyone else in his care.
Bergbusch will rule on the case on December 1, 2023 at 10 a.m. CST.
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access local crisis lines and 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.