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News Report

Ex-Cop's Sentence Fair: Appeal Court

SASKATOON  —  A retired Saskatoon police sergeant is heading to jail to serve the remainder of his sentence for groping the breast of an 18-year-old female complainant in a sexual assault case he was investigating.

Sgt. James Bracken
Sgt. James Bracken Appeal Court: The gravity of Bracken's offence, and his degree of culpability, calls for incarceration. Community service or house arrest are scant deterrent for child molesters. Unanimous verdict: Justices Bayda, Gerwing, Sherstobitoff

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal dismissed James Bracken's bid to have his jail sentence reduced to a conditional sentence to be served in the community.

"We are of a unanimous opinion the sentence was a fit sentence," said Justice Nicholas Sherstobitoff, speaking on behalf of Chief Justice Ed Bayda and Justice Marjorie Gerwing. The judges "agree with the substance of the trial judge's reasons for sentence," he said.

Bracken, a 29-year veteran with the Saskatoon Police Service, was sentenced to nine months in jail after pleading guilty June 7 to sexually assaulting the teen in his police car in February.

At the time of sentencing, provincial court Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond took into consideration the 17 days Bracken spent on remand and reduced his jail term to seven months and three weeks.

The Crown also appealed Bracken's sentence, seeking to place him on probation upon his release from jail and to have his name placed on the sexual offender registry.

However, Sherstobitoff said probation wasn't necessary and the Appeal Court was satisfied that the impact of placing Bracken's name on the registry in terms of his loss of privacy would be grossly disproportionate to what would be achieved  –  protecting the public from someone who is not likely to reoffend.

Bracken: Preyed on Vulnerability

Between September 2004 and February, Bracken, who retired March 11, was the lead investigator into the victim's complaint alleging she had been sexually abused by an adult neighbour from the time she was 12 until she was 14½. During that time Bracken met with the teen about 40 times.

Criminal Charges
Bracken's arrest document: Information #34542900 The publication ban refers only to the victim's name

Prior to the assault in February, court was told Bracken had made sexually suggestive remarks to the teen and in January had given her four of his police-issued uniform shirts and a blue clip-on tie and suggested she wear the shirts to bed. He also suggested he wanted a picture of her wearing nothing except the police shirt or the tie.

On the day of the assault Bracken reached over and squeezed the teen's breast several times before she brushed his arm away.

The offence came to light when the woman complained to the Crown prosecutor who was handling the original sexual assault.

The police service launched an investigation after the prosecutor reported the incident.

Bracken's lawyer argued jail time was not required because the assault was unplanned, an "isolated incident," on the lower end of the scale of sexual assaults and the irrational act of a man who was suffering from severe depression at the time. While he said Bracken admitted his action, the former police officer did not admit that his conduct was in any way a plan to groom the woman for sexual purposes.

He also argued that Bracken, who has no previous convictions, had spent 17 days in jail, has been publicly denounced and his reputation as a police officer, which he built up over 29 years, has been tarnished.

The Crown argued the judge's imposition of a jail sentence was fitting because Bracken had breached his position of trust as a police officer by preying on the vulnerability of the victim, who was devastated by the assault.

Read the full legal decision:   R. v. Bracken 2005 SKPC 64

Police Crest Abuse of trust by a police officer is serious. Society's abhorrence and pain is evident when other newspapers pick up and reprint the story from the Canadian wire service.
Original Ex-cop's sentence fair: Appeal Court Saskatoon Star Phoenix  (October 21)
Reprint Grope sends officer to jail Regina Leader Post  (October 21)

Original Star Phoenix newspaper clipping

Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 21 October 2005 (page A10)

News Clip / Ex-cop's sentence fair: Appeal Court News Clip / Ex-cop's sentence fair: Appeal Court