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New trial ordered for children’s hockey coach in voyeurism case

The Court of Appeal for British Columbia has set aside the convictions, with one of three judges dissenting
Statue of Lady Justice at Vancouver courthouse. (File photo Black Press Media)

A children’s hockey and baseball coach who was found guilty of two counts of voyeurism for photographing young boys in dressing rooms in sports facilities in Surrey, Coquitlam and New Westminster will have a new trial after appealing his convictions.

Justice Heather MacNaughton convicted Randy William Downes in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster 0n June 14, 2019. The Court of Appeal for British Columbia has set aside the convictions, with one of three judges dissenting. There is a publication ban on information that could identify the complainants and certain witnesses.

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The first count charged Downes with taking photographs of a boy aged 13 or 14 in dressing rooms in hockey arenas in Surrey and Coquitlam in June 2013 and in the second count taking photographs of a 12-year-old boy, again in dressing rooms in sports facilities in Coquitlam, New Westminster and Surrey in August 2015.

The RCMP acting on a search warrant on Downes’ home seized electronic devices that contained thousands of photographs of young boys. Downes ran a photography business out of his home, called Action Sports Photography. MacNaughton noted none of the photos were pornographic. Of the images, the Crown relied on 38 photos of the two young boys in dressing rooms.

The counts of voyeurism stated that in June 2013 and August 2015 Downes “did unlawfully observe or record children under the age of 16 where the children were in a place in which they could reasonably have been expected to be nude.”

Appeal court Justice Peter Willock in his Jan. 11 reasons for judgment concluded that while it was open to MacNaughton to find that nudity “was expected in the dressing room in which the offences were found to have occurred, the conflicts in the evidence regarding whether nudity was expected at the time the photos were taken were not addressed. In my opinion, a conviction cannot be founded solely upon evidence that at some time nudity was expected in the dressing rooms in question. For that reason, I would allow the appeal, set aside the conviction, and order a new trial.”

Justice Christopher Grauer concurred. Justice Gail Dickson disagreed.

“As I see it, Mr. Downes criminally invaded the personal privacy and sexual integrity,” of the two boys, Dickson concluded, “by surreptitiously photographing them in their underwear in these dressing rooms in these circumstances. This is so regardless of whether the photographs he took met the definition of child pornography, regardless of his purpose in taking them and regardless of whether nudity could be expected in the dressing room specifically when he took the photographs.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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