British Columbia

Ex-coach found guilty of sex-related assaults on 5 teenage boys decades ago

Former Mountie Alan John Davidson, now in his 60s, assaulted teens in 1970s and '80s

Rhianna Schmunk - CBC News

January 31, 2018

Alan John Davidson assaulted five teens while he was a minor sports coach in B.C. in the 1970s and '80s. He attacked the boys when he had them alone on overnight trips, according to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling posted online Monday. (B.C RCMP)

An ex-Mountie has been found guilty of indecently assaulting five teenage boys when he was a minor hockey and baseball coach in the B.C. Interior in the 1970s and '80s.

Alan John Davidson, now 62, was acquitted on two other counts of indecent assault, according to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling posted online Monday.

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Seven men, all now in their 50s, testified last year in B.C. against the man they once saw as a "mentor," "friend" and in one case "a big brother."

One man in his 50s told Justice Sheri Ann Donegan how his minor hockey coach assaulted him during a camping trip when he was a Grade 8 student in the 1970s.

Then 13 or 14, he said what happened after he was alone with Davidson left him "shaking like a leaf."

Retelling the story 30 years later, the judge noted, made the man start to shake again.

Davidson was charged with the indecent assaults in 2014 after a man approached Burnaby RCMP.

The man told police Davidson had sexually assaulted him while he was living and playing hockey in a small town north of Kamloops. He said it was possible other players on his team had also been attacked.

Former athletes contacted

After the complaint was lodged, RCMP launched an investigation involving communities in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan — the three provinces in which Davidson had lived and worked over the last 30 years.

Crown counsel said investigators contacted all of Davidson's former athletes to ask about the coach. Charges were laid after eight men from the B.C. Interior came forward.

The attacks happened when Davidson was alone with the boys between 1976 and 1982, according to the judgment. The teens ranged in age from 13 to 16 at the time.

The men told court they knew Davidson through hockey or baseball but also as an auxiliary RCMP officer and in some cases a close family friend.

One man testified he looked up to Davidson as someone "larger than life."

The judgment said Davidson assaulted the boys after taking them on fishing trips or visits to a local golf course, renting motels or staying in the coach's camper. He also tagged along on family camping trips and to out-of-town tournaments. One year, he stayed in a victim's home and shared his bedroom after his unwitting parents invited the coach to stay.

Davidson assaulted the boys after taking them on fishing trips or visits to a local golf course, renting motels or staying in his camper, said the court judgment. (B.C RCMP)

Some men testified their parents allowed Davidson to take them on overnight trips because he was seen as a mentor.

One boy said he was so excited to have been invited on one of Davidson's camping trips that he practised fishing for weeks.

In their testimony, the men said Davidson molested them, performed oral sex and asked the teens to perform oral sex once he had them alone for the night. In at least two cases, he plied the underage boys with alcohol.

One said Davidson, who later became a fully fledged RCMP officer who worked in several communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, attempted rape.

They all told the court they felt "confused ... shocked ... mortified" and "scared." Several said they just "froze."

Issue of consent

The main issue during the trial was whether the men consented to the sexual activity. Before 1983, the age of consent in Canada was 14.

Donegan ruled that five of the teens hadn't consented, even though some of them were 14 or older and hadn't explicitly said "no." 

She found that their resistance, confusion and silence should have indicated their lack of consent to an adult who held a position of power and authority over the boys.

In her judgment, Donegan wrote that Davidson was "reckless or wilfully blind to the fact that [the victim] was not consenting."

"[The victim] was a small, bullied vulnerable young adolescent," the judge said in reference to one of the counts. "He looked up to his hockey coach as an authority member and mentor ... he was excited to have been invited on a trip by someone of [Davidson's] stature."

B.C. RCMP Supt. Brendan Fitzpatrick announced charges against Davidson in 2014. (CBC)

When presented with the victims' testimony, Davidson apologized to some of them.

"I pray you can start over and have some closure," he said in one case via video.

"You looked up to me and I let you down.… Please move forward," he said to another.

The former coach was acquitted of two other charges: one because the teen, although "confused," had verbally consented at the time of the alleged offence. The other acquittal was due to vague evidence, the judgment said. 

The eighth charge laid in 2014 was stayed.

The charge of indecently assaulting another man or woman no longer exists in the Criminal Code. Davidson was charged with the old offence because it was the one in place at the time of the attacks.

Davidson is scheduled to be sentenced on April 6. He's also facing three more counts of sexual assault in Saskatchewan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhianna Schmunk

Rhianna Schmunk is a writer with CBC Vancouver. Reach her at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.

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